Monday, 20 November 2017

Artist Spotlight - Tenor Jonathan Hanley

Jonathan Hanley is tenor soloist in our upcoming performance of Handel, Vivaldi and Hadyn at the York Early Music Christmas Festival.  Jonathan is a lay clerk at Peterborough Cathedral and pursues both a choral and solo singing career. Over the last year, he has been a member of the prestigious Genesis Sixteen programme for young singers. As a soloist, Jonathan has performed with a number of ensembles, including appearances at the Trame Sonore Chamber Music Festival in Mantua, the Malcolm Arnold Festival, and the Beverley and York Early Music Festivals. Recent repertoire has included Handel Saul and Messiah, Schütz St John Passion, Bach Magnificat, Haydn Creation, Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, Malcolm Arnold Song of Simeon, and Beethoven 9th Symphony. He has appeared as a recitalist in programmes of English song and lieder across the country. He is a soloist on a forthcoming CD of Humfrey Verse Anthems with Edward Higginbottom and the Instruments of Time and Truth. Jonathan currently studies with Richard Edgar Wilson.

We began by asking Jonathan to tell us a bit more about performing with Yorkshire Bach Choir...

I started singing with Yorkshire Bach Choir in my first year at university, way back in 2011, and have really enjoyed returning to York to join them since moving to Peterborough 2 years ago. They’re always programmes of fantastic music performed with style and conviction, and it’s really wonderful to come back and perform with such a dedicated and fun bunch!

I’m guessing you’ve sung some of the repertoire before, what do you interests you about this particular piece?

I love all of the music in the programme but the Handel is a particular favourite. I love the Italian influences and its virtuosity – it’s physically thrilling to sing. What I find most interesting about the piece is variety of different choral writing – particularly the semiquaver figures in ‘secundum ordinem Melchisedech’ and the ‘conquasabit’ with all its repeated crotchets. I also think the ‘de torrente’ is one of the most stunning pieces of music. I do think he could’ve added in an extra tenor solo though!

Detail of Handel statue by Louis-François Roubiliac
 What is the hardest thing about performing?

I think the hardest thing about performing is finding the balance between thinking about technique, stagecraft, expression and communication. It’s easy to get wrapped up in one thing, a particular text, for example, which makes the other things slip to the back of your mind - maybe the secret is to have them slip only half way!

Is there any piece of music or repertoire that haven’t had the opportunity to perform yet but would like to?

There are three things that I would love to sing before I die (!) which are the Evangelist in the Bach St John Passion, Elgar Gerontius and Britten St Nicolas – I was Baby St Nicolas as a chorister and I can remember thinking as I stepped down from the pulpit where I had been singing to let St Nicolas on for the end of the movement that I wanted to sing it.

Who is the composer (dead or alive) that you’d most like to meet?

Benjamin Britten.

What is your musical guilty pleasure?

I don’t know whether I should be that guilty about it, but every Christmas, I have to listen to ‘Messiah – a Soulful Celebration’. If you don’t know it, have a listen! 

Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration (Various artists)

When you’re not practising or performing, how else do you like to spend your time?

Probably in the kitchen or watching my latest Netflix obsession.

How do you mostly listen to music?

I’m always plugged into my iPhone when I’m on the move, and have a really good Bose speaker at home which I’m sure annoy my neighbours.

If you hadn’t become a musician, what other job would you have liked to do?

I went to university originally intending to do a law conversion after my history degree, and I think I would enjoy being a lawyer and arguing for a living!

Who would play you in the film of your life?

I have no idea, but I would like to think it would be Jude Law!

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

As a History graduate, this is an extremely difficult question to answer, but as a medievalist I think I would have to go back to fifteenth-century Europe, but I couldn’t be more specific than that – there would be too much to see!

We look forward to hearing Jonathan as tenor soloist in Handel Dixit Dominus and Haydn Nelson Mass with Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists conducted by Peter Seymour. Vocal soloists include Bethany Seymour, Wendy Goodson (Sopranos), Nancy Cole (Mezzo Soprano) & Frederick Long (Bass).  The programme also includes Vivaldi Gloria.

The concert takes place on Saturday 9 December 7.30pm at Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

The concert is part of the York Early Music Festival.

A handful of final tickets for the concert are available in advance via 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Yorkshire Bach Choir 2017-18: Masterpieces and miniatures

We are thrilled to announce full details of our 2017-18 concert season! Join us for a year of music packed with beautiful music.

Along with performing some real highlights of the choral repertoire we explore some new concert themes and programmes of music. Here are details of each of our six concerts coming up in 2017/18.

In the Midst of Life: 28.10.17

Our opening concert showcases some real peaks of not just in music but of art in the entire Renaissance period. The extraordinary 40-part motet Spem in alium is the first of four Renaissance choral masterpieces that all engage with and often soar above the troubles of their times. Sheppard’s haunting In Media Vita (‘In the midst of life we are in death’) is a haunting exploration of various texts, including the Nunc Dimittis. The dark splendour of Allegri’s renowned Miserere and Byrd’s mournful Ne irascaris, Domine will also feature alongside music by Tallis, Jeffreys and Ludwig Senfl.

For tickets click here >> 

Handel, Vivaldi, Haydn: 9.12.17

This colourful programme features some of the 18th century’s most popular and invigorating music for chorus and instruments. Handel’s vivid setting of Dixit Dominus, composed during his stay in Italy, is one of his most virtuosic and impressive choral compositions. Vivaldi’s colourful Gloria pulsates with festive Venetian energy and is his best known, most popular, choral work. Haydn’s Nelson Mass is possibly his most electrifying and atmospheric mass settings, taking us on a musical journey where dark anxiety is dissolved in joyful triumph.

Tickets are selling quickly for what promises to be a choral highlight of the York Early Christmas Music Festival.

For tickets click here >>

Stories in Glass: Music for the Great East Window 4.02.18

2018 will see the completion of the restoration of York Minster’s iconic Great East Window. Marking this landmark in the life of the city we present music inspired by stained glass and the wider history of York. Events depicted in the window, such as the Death of Absalom with settings of When David heard by Tomkins and Weelkes, and scenes from Revelation, are included. The concert ends with an unabashed celebration of the celestial with Harris’s wonderful Faire is the Heaven and the life-affirming properties of light in Wood’s ecstatic Hail, gladdening light.

For tickets click here >>

Bach: St John Passion: 17.03.18

The Passio Secundum Johannem may be Bach’s most inherently dramatic passion setting. Telling the story of Christ’s sacrifice, it also offers a celebration of human feeling in evoking the joy and suffering of man’s pilgrimage on earth. The vivid, colourful playing of the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists will be joined by Joshua Ellicott and Peter Harvey two outstanding solo interpreters of the roles of Evangelist and Christus.

Book early for what promises to be a highlight of musical life in York in 2018!  

For tickets click here >>

Three Marys: 19.05.18

Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other biblical Marys were the focus of an extraordinary flowering of art during the Renaissance period. Composers were part of this movement, exploring the lives of the Marys in music that ranges from the deeply sacred to the sensual. This concert explores events from the anointing at Bethany to a grieving Mary at the foot of the cross. We will perform music including Palestrina Missa Assumpta est Maria, Guerrero Maria Magdalena, Sheppard Gaude gaude guade Maria and Stabat Mater settings by Palestrina, Padilla and Browne.

For tickets click here >>

Bach Motets & Rachel Podger: 23.06.18

JS Bach’s motets represent some of his most beautiful and mesmerising musical compositions. Each motet is crafted with complete originality and skill using a dizzying range of choral techniques, from double-choir sonorities to canon, fugue and counterpoint, to explore their deeply felt and varied texts. Complementing this choral feast Yorkshire Bach Choir is pleased to welcome Rachel Podger, a musician who has been described as ‘the queen of the baroque violin’, performing some of Bach’s most wonderful music for violin and harpsichord.

For tickets click here >>

Tickets and further details

Full details of ticket prices and season subscriptions can be found on our website. You can save money across the season by subscribing for one of our season tickets. £5 student tickets are available.  

Further details on Yorkshire Bach Choir:
Yorkshire Baroque Soloists:

All our concerts (except for the December concert at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall) are performed in the spacious St Michael le Belfrey a historic church in the heart of the city.

 YBC Concert reminder service:

Twitter: @YorksBachChoir 
Facebook: Yorkshire Bach Choir

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Yorkshire Bach Choir is auditioning for our new season!

Join Yorkshire Bach Choir

Yorkshire Bach Choir is always interested in hearing potential new members - we are currently auditioning for all sections of the choir in the run up to our new season.

Is Yorkshire Bach Choir the choir for me?

Yorkshire Bach Choir comprises around 45 voices and performs music mainly from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical period so an interest (and enthusiasm) for this repertoire is helpful. We regularly perform vocal music in an historically-informed style with our specialist accompanying orchestra the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists. You will need a good, well-produced voice that blends with the current group of singers. Subject to vacancies, membership is open to anyone who has the ability to contribute at the choir’s core standards of high performance, regardless of any other factors. Current membership is a mix of professional, semi-professional and other advanced singers with about a third of the choir being students; some members travel quite a distance to sing with the choir.

What does being a member involve?

We have a programme of around six concerts each year. We rehearse intensively on Friday evenings between 7-9.30pm for about 30 weeks of the year.  Members are expected to make a commitment to attend all rehearsals and concerts unless there are exceptional circumstances.  This is essential in order that we maintain the high standards for which we are renowned. We usually perform on a Saturday evening with mandatory rehearsals on the Friday night and Saturday afternoon prior to this concert. All choir members are expected to contribute to membership via a subscription system which currently stands at £153 per year for standard members or £51 per year for student members (although any difficulty with this would be viewed sympathetically and you can split your payment over the year in 3 installments). 

What can I expect at an audition?

If you are interested in auditioning please email our conductor Peter Seymour <> with a short email introducing yourself, your singing experience, an indication of your voice type and suggested times that you might be available for an audition. Peter will then arrange an audition. As part of the audition you will be asked to sing 10-15’ prepared music and your vocal range will be gauged. 

Rehearsals for the first concert start on Friday 29 September so an early audition is advised. 

You can find out more information on the choir and our upcoming season at   

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Peter if you require further information!

Peter Seymour <>

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Artist spotlight - Baritone Frederick Long

Frederick Long is soloist in our upcoming performance of J.S. Bach Mass in B minor on Saturday 18 MarchFrederick is establishing himself as one of Britain’s most exciting and versatile young bass-baritones. Recent operatic highlights include Schaunard in La bohème for Opera Holland Park, Puck in a new version of  Purcell's The Fairy Queen at the Iford Arts Festival. Frederick's substantial and varied concert repertory sees him in frequent performance across the country and abroad, with recent highlights including the Matthew Passion at the Leith Hill Music Festival and Messiah with the English Festival Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. 2017 sees his first Papageno, for Mid-Wales Opera, and a return to the Iford Arts festival for Schaunard (La bohème) and Zebul (Jephtha). 

Catching up with Frederick in advance of our upcoming concert we began by asking him for his thoughts on J.S. Bach: 

It's always such a pleasure to perform Bach. His music has a directness of expression that is quite startling at times, combined with the richness and complexity that rewards continued study and investment. He can be pretty fun with his vocal writing too: often long, wide-ranging phrases with little room for breath.

Are there any particular challenges in this work?

Performing the bass solos in the B minor Mass requires you to wear two rather contrasting hats, as the movements would have originally been sung by different members of his choir. The famous Quoniam is a majestic aria whose long lines and low setting are suited to a lyric bass. However the gently rocking Et in Spiritum Sanctum is set in a much brighter, baritonal register. Luckily there's usually an interval in between to tighten one's belt!

Section of Et in Spiritum Sanctum from autograph score of Bach Mass in B minor

Musically, when have you felt the happiest?

Hearing Howells' Requiem for the first time was a revelation, in a choir right at the beginning of my university career. Being part of the Glyndebourne chorus that took Billy Budd to New York was outrageous fun. Still it's hard to beat singing Noel Coward with family round the piano at home!

Is there any piece of music or repertoire that you haven’t had the opportunity to perform yet but would like to?

Mozart's Figaro is a role I know well, and have been lucky enough to cover for English National Opera, but never actually yet performed. The challenge for us young-ish bass-baritones is to find parts which suit us both vocally and physically: often composers will use lower voices for the old baddy or pater familias. Not so with the fresh-faced Figaro, and hey, it's the title role in the best opera ever!

Frederick as Schaunard in La Bohème, Opera Holland Park With Shaun Dixon Credit: Robert Workman

What is your musical guilty pleasure?

I was brought up on the Beach Boys and they're the soundtrack to my every summer. I'm also an unashamed fan of certain Disney scores. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an overlooked masterpiece, and yes, I love Frozen too.

When you’re not practising or performing, how else do you like to spend your time?

Last year my wife (soprano Emily Vine) finally convinced me that we needed a dog in our lives. Of course I'm now pathetically in love with our Cavalier King Charles puppy. When we're not in the park with Smee, I'll be in the pub trying not to lose my voice shouting at Man United.

What keeps you awake at night?

Unfamiliar beds and lumpy pillows. Obviously there are wonderful perks to life travelling around as a singer, but that ain't one! 

What would your super power be?

Mind-reading. Terribly useful for audition panels...

Were you always destined to become a musician?

Everyone knows you'd be mad to try and make a career out of classical music, and this was the received wisdom despite a distinct musical bent to my family. I read music at university still very much with a law conversion course in mind, until a "see what happens" audition for London colleges resulted in an unexpected place at the Royal Academy. That was nearly ten years ago!

We look forward to hearing Frederick Long as bass soloist in JS Bach: Mass in B minor with Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists conducted by Peter Seymour. Vocal soloists include Bethany Seymour (Soprano), Anna Huntley (Mezzo Soprano) & Jason Darnell (Tenor).

The concert takes place on Saturday 18 March 7.30pm at St Michael le Belfrey, York.

In advance of the concert Peter Seymour will be giving a pre-concert talk on composition and communication in Bach’s mass.  The talk takes place at 6pm at the Belfry Hall, 52a Stongegate and is free for ticket holders for the concert.

Tickets for the concert are available in advance via 

Further details about Frederick can be found at