Darren Jeffery

Stour Singers are delighted that Darren Jeffery – who excelled in the title role in Handel’s Saul for us in May this year – has accepted our invitation to be the 2017/18 Honorary Fellow.  Darren’s expressive bass baritone voice is very versatile, and he is completely at home on both the operatic stage and the concert platform.  Starting his musical training at the Royal Northern College of Music, Darren was one of the very first singers to join the Royal Opera Young Artists Programme (even singing there with Luciano Pavarotti!).

Darren has built an extensive career, singing a diversity of roles from Handel to Wagner, from Britten to Stravinsky, in some of the great opera houses of the world from our own Royal Opera House and English National Opera to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.  He has also sung at Glyndebourne, Garsington, and the Proms.  Based with his family in Cornwall, he can often be seen restoring Land Rovers and tinkering with tractors as well as encouraging young local singers!

Darren’s programme from now until summer next year includes a premiere at English National Opera, oratorio in Bude, Dartington, and Liverpool, singing ‘Monterone’ in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Covent Garden, Britten in Moscow, and an extensive tour of the Netherlands in the title role of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.  Closer to us, Darren is singing at Longborough Festival Opera in July next year as the ‘Music Teacher’ in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.  What a full programme!

When invited to be our Honorary Fellow, Darren said he would love to accept, and was thrilled to be asked.  The thrill is ours!

Review of Handel’s Saul, May 2017

A Resounding Musical Success!

On May 13th in St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour, under the thorough baton of dedicated musical director Richard Emms, his Shipston choir, the Stour Singers, and the well-established, youthful chamber orchestra, Midlands-based Queen’s Park Sinfonia, performed Handel’s Oratorio Saul to the delight of all who came.  Music comes in all shapes and sizes from Pop and Rock to high Baroque, something to suit all tastes.  It can thrill, chill, move and elate us.  This programme was elating.

And the choir and audience were blessed with five extraordinary and highly professional vocal soloists!  Handel wanted to tell a famous dramatic story and it could surely not have been better told than by these five singers.  Australian soprano, Anita Watson, winner of so many international competitions, sang Saul’s daughter and lover of David, Michal, in her rich and beautiful voice, which rang out with warmth and distinction.  Tim Morgan, a young countertenor, was technically excellent and sang David with an astonishing range and richness, simply a lovely voice.  Ben Thapa, tenor, sang Jonathan and his dramatically expressive singing was equally exemplified in the other roles he took.  Baritone, Alistair Donaghue, fulfilled the voice of prophesy and other parts with clarity and with a warm and liquid tone that charmed the ear.  The commanding and explicit voice of bass baritone, Darren Jeffery, sang the tormented King Saul and filled it with strength and emotional depth and with great clarity.  What a tremendous and hugely experienced quintet of soloists to put over so much drama with such conviction!

And the choir?  It was outstanding on this occasion, both in its balanced vocal strength and interpretation.  Quick and clear on their entries, the choristers put everything they had at their vocal disposal into this moving feast, from feisty to moments of pure sorrow as in ‘Mourn Israel…‘.  They sounded very confident and appeared to be enjoying singing.

Providing the continuous musical accompaniment to all the vocal performers in Handel’s emotionally wide-ranging score was the Queen’s Park Sinfonia with its lively and dynamically expressive playing, with special praise for the woodwind… and to Rachel Bird, the choir’s accompanist, on keyboard.

This was an evening-out to remember: amazing composer, live musicians, live audience, live music on our rural doorstep.  We live in troubled times, but in such music, telling a tale going back more than three thousand years, we are reminded across centuries of our humanity and that while there’s life, there’s love and hope.  And music surely plays a deep and central role in our lives!

Ina M. Evans

Review by Richard Emms

Saul’s soloists

I would like to thank Vic Twyman for bringing together such an excellent group of soloists for the recent performance of Handel’s Saul. Apart from singing so beautifully, through their sensitive characterisation they made the piece work as a most moving piece of drama.

Congratulations to the choir, too, for their musical commitment; and also, in their role as the People of Israel, capturing convincingly the wildly fluctuating moods of the people.

 

Richard Emms
(Musical Director)

 

Tim Morgan

Born in Leicester, Tim received his formative musical education as a chorister at the Church of St James the Greater and as a choral scholar in Leicestershire Chorale. After completing the sixth form, Tim was a Choral Scholar at Norwich Cathedral, where he studied with tenor, Ben Johnson, and worked with pianist, Tom Primrose, with whom he continues to collaborate.

Now an undergraduate scholar at the Royal College of Music, Tim studies with Tim Evans-Jones and is coached by Andrew Robinson and Lawrence Zazzo. Whilst at RCM he has taken part in master classes with Lawrence Zazzo, Patricia Bardon and Masaaki Suzuki. During this time, he has worked with such preeminent early music figures as trumpeter David Blackadder, viola da gamba player Vittorio Ghielmi, flautist and conductor Ashley Solomon and countertenor, Michael Chance.

2014 marked an important point in Tim’s early career. Highlights include winning the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers, appearing on BBC3’s Music Matters performing a previously unrecorded aria from Gluck’s Opera, Artamene, performing Handel’s Messiah with The Hanover Band, and returning to Norwich Cathedral as a soloist Bach’s St Matthew Passion. He also had the pleasure of performing at the Brighton Early Music Festival and as a young artist at Southrepps Classical Music Festival.

2015 continues to prove fruitful with particular oratorio highlights of Bach’s St John Passion with players from RCM and Salzburg Mozarteum and Handel’s Dixit Dominus with Genesis Sixteen and Harry Christophers. This season, he understudied the role of ‘Apollo’ in Garsington Opera’s production of Britten’s Death in Venice and took part in British Youth Opera’s summer workshops.

Currently, Tim is studying on the Erasmus scheme at Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag, where his teachers are Rita Dams and Michael Chance. Tim is the understudy for Michael Chance in the first production of Calliope Tsoupaki’s new opera, Mariken in de Tuin de Lusten with contemporary opera company, Opera2day, and the Dutch National Theatre.

Forthcoming highlights for 2015/16 include Handel’s Messiah with Norwich Cathedral Choir, a performance of Bach’s St John Passion with The Hanover Band, a recital at Raynham Hall with soprano, Rowan Pierce, understudying the role of Polinesso in Handel’s Ariodante with the RCM International Opera School, and his debut at the London Handel Festival as Arsace in Handel’s Berenice with La Nuova Musica.

Handel’s maggots – obsessions

On 19th September 1738, Jennens wrote to a friend

“Mr.Handel’s head is more full of maggots than ever”

Maggot 1: His newly discovered carillon – “with this Cyclopean instrument he designs to made poor Saul stark mad.

Maggot 2: A bespoke organ, costing £500, designed so that he could direct the orchestra from it, ‘all the time with his back to the audience!’ (Not considered a bad idea now; but the cost in current money would be about £77,000). Jennens suggested he was ‘overstocked with money’ – a bit rich considering the cost of his own Leicestershire home.

Maggot 3: ‘A Hallelujah he has trumped up at the end of his oratorio since I went into the country’. Handel had refused to set the Hallelujah Jennens had put at the end of the opening scene, and thought Jennens’ ending not sufficiently grand. Fortunately for us Handel carried out precisely Jennens intentions regarding Hallelujahs.

Jennings concludes: “but it grows late and I must defer the rest till I write next, by which time, I doubt not, more new ones will breed in his brain.”

back to Handel’s Saul, Charles Jennens

Charles Jennens

was born in Gopsall Hall in Leicestershire.

His great-grandfather was one of the great Birmingham ironmasters and lived at Aston Hall. So the family were immensely wealthy and Charles lived accordingly, with a second home in Bloomsbury.

Charles Jennens

He was a man of literary pretensions, bringing out his own edition of some of Shakespeare’s tragedies, which brought him scorn and ridicule from some quarters. But he was a very able amateur librettist, providing the libretti for Messiah and Belshazzar, as well as Saul.

Both Jennens and Handel were difficult men, apt to be high-handed. Handel could fairly massacre a libretto to suit his music; but Jennens would not countenance such treatment of his work. (see maggot number 3 elsewhere in this article)

back to Handel’s Saul