We are fortunate to have established some very special relationships with soloists who have sung with the Choir over the years. For our March concert, John Bate's special 'swansong' concert, he has taken particular care in choosing a group of soloists whom he particularly enjoys working with and knows will function well as a group – "particularly important in Haydn's Nelson Mass", he says.
For mezzo Yvonne Howard it will be the fifth occasion on which she has sung with Thames Philharmonic. She looks back fondly on the first occasion she sang with the Choir in 2002. "A friend (Heather Shipp) had been taken ill and I stepped in at very short notice to sing the mezzo soprano part in Verdi’s Requiem at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. John and I met briefly as the rehearsal began and as the afternoon went on we realised that we were completely ‘in tune’ as to how we wanted the mezzo part to work. It was wonderful music-making and I hoped against hope that he would use me again. He did and I was so pleased."
Baritone Ed Grint has sung with the Choir at Cadogan Hall (the first time in 2013), Southwark Cathedral and in Kingston. He has especially enjoyed those concerts where he has sung with soprano wife Katy Crompton, including the Brahms German Requiem in Cadogan Hall and St John Passion in Kingston. "My favourite memory is of Cadogan Hall in 2018 when Katy and I brought our new-born son to listen to his first rehearsal of Mozart!"
For Mark Dobell, it will be his third concert with the Choir. He particularly remembers his first concert: St John Passion, with Neil Jenkins as the Evangelist singing his own translation.
All our soloists have successful singing careers. Yvonne is an established opera singer and professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music Opera. Mark sings with The Sixteen and The Orlando Consort. Both Ed and Katy have sung in a wide range of operas and oratorios, and are in great demand as concert soloists. So it is particularly pleasing that they all speak highly of their experiences with Thames Philharmonic and Artistic Director John Bate.
Says Ed: "John is a great director and has an extraordinary legacy behind him at this Choir. He clearly knows and loves the pieces which he performs, and he has inspired some wonderful singing from the choirs and orchestras in front of him at each occasion that I’ve worked with him." Yvonne talks about "the high standard of music-making and the warmth and friendliness of the members: it is always a joy to look forward to." She appreciates working with John because he is always meticulously prepared. "This", she says, "makes the soloist's job so much easier and enjoyable … and there is always that cheeky twinkle in his eye."
Each of the soloists has a particular connection to the works they will be singing. Ed first sang solos in the Nelson Mass with his school choir in St John’s Smith Square when he was 15; "my London debut, a worrying 20 years ago!" he says. For Mark, the Nelson Mass was one of the first pieces he ever performed as a professional soloist – "and I have been doing it ever since!" Yvonne sang the same work several times as a teenager with the Staffordshire County Youth Choir. The Duruflé came a little later, when she was a student at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. "I was involved in a performance which was put on jointly with Manchester University; a really special collaboration", she says.
We very much look forward to their singing with us on 9 March.