St Matthew Passion - the music and the company

First performed  288 years ago on Good Friday in 1727 in Leipzig, the St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach will be performed by Hashtag Opera Company on Good Friday, 3 April at 7pm. The music is based on Matthew's account of  the days leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, and the manuscript bears the Latin title: Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew. It's a brilliant combination of the best of Baroque choral music: chorale passages with a choir, recitative passages where the narrator – the Evangelist – tells the story with impassioned speech-inspired singing, and gorgeous solo arias. 

Hashtag Opera Company is an opera collective, where the musicians themselves create, promote and make productions happen. Have you heard of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, where projects or companies are started up through a community on the internet ? Well, that is what Hashtag Opera Company (or  #OperaCo) does. Their way of working is explained on their website here, and they use Facebook extensively to recruit, inform and promote their concerts.

This Good Friday performance of the St Matthew Passion here at Church of the Holy Spirit will be conducted by Frederick Platt, who has trained and studied under Jason Thornton of Bath Philharmonia and Robin Browning at the University of Southampton. 

During this time, Frederick held the posts of Assistant Conductor of Frome Symphony Orchestra and Assistant Conductor of Southampton University Symphony Orchestra, gaining experience in a wide range of musical periods and aesthetics, from Vivaldi to Britten and Prokofiev. 

Most recently he has taken up the baton with #OperaCo in their performance at the Church of the Holy Spirit of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco, forming the orchestra and chorus from scratch. 

Tickets cost £18 (£14 concessions, £5 students) and can be purchased here

Richard Roberts

Richard Roberts (Jesus) studied History at Durham and Oxford, where he was a choral scholar and sang with a variety of ensembles, including Durham University Chamber Choir, Durham Cathedral Consort of Voices and Schola Cantorum of Oxford. 

As a soloist, he has performed Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Bach’s Magnificat, Mozart’s Mass in C minor, Duruflé’s Requiem and Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb. 

His operatic roles include Sid in Albert Herring, Dr Falke in Die Fledermaus, Dr Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, The Father in Hansel and Gretel, and El Dancairo in Carmen.

Since graduating for a second time he has returned to his native London, where he continues to perform regularly with a variety of choirs and ensembles, including The Holst Singers and The English Baroque Choir.

2015 is his year for biblical roles: after Jesus, his next solo engagement is as Noye in Noye’s Fludde.

Robin Whitehouse 

Robin Whitehouse (Evangelist) was educated at Reigate Grammar School, and spent a gap year at the Royal College of Music before reading Maths at St Peter's College Oxford. 

Whilst at university, he was principal horn with all the university orchestras and sang with the major choirs, appearing regularly as a soloist. Since then, he has appeared in numerous operas, including Cosi fan Tutte, La Traviata, Albert Herring, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze de Figaro. Oratorio work has included Evangelist in both Bach Passions as well as his Christmas Oratorio, Haydn's Creation, Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Paulus. 

As a horn player, solo performances have included Strauss' Second Horn Concerto and Bach's first Brandenburg Concerto. Most recently he has performed Monteverdi's Vespers with the English Chamber Choir, Britten's Nocturne with Oxford Spezzati and his Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Oxford University String Ensemble. He was recently invited to take part in a public masterclass with the University Orchestra on Mahler's orchestral lieder, taken by Ian Bostridge

Robin studied with the heldentenor Kenneth Woollam at the RCM and currently studies with Ann de Renais in London

Katy Thomson 

Katy Thomson (soprano) began singing as a chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, at the age of eight. She currently lives in London, studying singing with Ann De Renais. 

Katy graduated from Durham University where she performed in various productions, including playing Lady Billows in Albert Herring (Britten), Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus (Strauss) and Angelica in The Poisoned Kiss (Vaughan Williams). With the Miranda Wright Singers, Katy played Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro in July 2011, in a production that toured the North East of England.

Katy sang with the National Youth Choir of Scotland from 2006-2011 and was a founding member of the Scottish chamber choir, Caledonian Voices. She has also sung with the London Philharmonic Choir, OSJ voices, St Paul’s Cathedral Chorus and is currently the soprano scholar at All Saint’s Church in Putney.

Katy has competed and won prizes in music festivals and competitions throughout the UK, and  has sung in master-classes with Ann Lampard, Claire Booth, Claire Weston, Sir Thomas Allen and Malcolm Martineau. 

Katy has participated in the St Endellion Easter Festival for the past five years and will do so again this Easter. In March 2014 Katy was the soprano soloist for the World Premiere of George Dyson’s Choral Symphony with the New London Orchestra and the London Chorus in St John’s Smith Square, conducted by Ronald Corp. 

John Cuthbert

John Cuthbert (tenor) began his vocal training as a chorister in the choir of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. 

As a member of that choir, John had the fortune to sing in Switzerland, Germany, Holland and the USA. He even had the odd solo here and there. John's singing has continued to be primarily liturgical and is currently associated with the choirs of All Saints, Margaret Street, Chelmsford Cathedral and St George's Chapel, Windsor amongst others.

He has also been tenor soloist for a performance of Bach's 'St John Passion' with the Chelmsford Choral Society and Handel's 'Messiah' with the Maldon Choral Society. This year, John will be participating in a masterclass with Sarah Walker CBE.

Singing shares John's time with a flourishing career as a piano accompanist. He has accompanied Katherine Crompton at the Wigmore Hall and Edward Grint at Fairfield Halls, Croydon and this year became a Samling Artist. John's piano playing has also led to opportunities to play celeste with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and City of London Sinfonia. This year will also see solo recitals in Inverness, Dundee and Edinburgh as part of the International Edinburgh Festival.

Harriet Roberts 

Harriet Roberts (alto) 
studied at Trinity College of Music where she won the English, German and Singing Faculty Song Competitions. 

She then completed a Master of Music at the Manhattan School in New York. She was invited to return to perform the title role in Massenet‘s Cherubin. The New York critics described Harriet as 'outstanding'. She remained in New York studying with world-famous vocal coach Marlena Malas and participating in Music Festivals around the country. 

Back in London the Friends of Covent Garden made it possible for her to spend a year at the National Opera Studio. She went on to perform numerous roles across Europe, including Dorabella in 'Cosi fan tutte,' Hansel in 'Hansel and Gretel' and Dido in 'Dido and Aeneas'. She has now settled back in London after a further two years abroad in Germany, where Harriet focused on her original interest as a recital artist. As well as teaching at Latymer and Lady Eleanor Holles Harriet is performing concerts in England and Germany.

Daniel Tate

Daniel came to singing during his time Music at Durham University. As a violinist from the age of 6, he developed a strong reputation in the North East as an orchestral and solo performer and was twice a concerto soloist with university orchestras. 

As  Leader of the Durham University Chamber Orchestra, Daniel also won the directorship of the University Chamber Choir - the university's flagship choral ensemble - and sang in several of the collegiate chapel choirs. He moved to Oxford to take up a Lay Clerkship at New College Oxford then at Christ Church Cathedral Choir. Daniel has now begun an active freelance career in Oxford and London as a singer, conductor and violinist and is a teacher of singing and music theory at leading schools in Oxford.

The past year has seen Daniel sing variously as a soloist and with many distinguished choirs. He regularly appears with the choirs of Westminster Cathedral, St Bride's Fleet Street, Chapels Royal at Hampton Court and Tower of London, and most recently Ex Cathedra - with whom he has just performed Carmina Burana at the London Coliseum with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Last year in March he was bass soloist in the world première performance of George Dyson's Choral Symphony with the New London Orchestra and the London Chorus at St John's Smith Square, and performed bass solos in Handel's Messiah in December. As well as preparing for various recitals and Passion performances, Daniel has also been engaged to perform Jesus in St John Passion by Bob Chilcott, conducted by the composer.  

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