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 bit.ly/YBach 

Further details about Frederick can be found at http://www.frederick-long.com/

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