Honorary Music Patrons
Charlie Best Photography
Organist, pianist and conductor Wayne Marshall OBE was born in Oldham, England, in 1961. He played the piano by ear at three, and began lessons at seven. He studied organ and piano from the age of 11 at Chetham’s School of Music and later at the Royal College of Music and at Vienna’s Hochschule für Musik. Beginning his career as a church musician, he served first as organ scholar at Manchester Cathedral, then at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. He quickly developed an international reputation as an organ soloist and recitalist, also appearing regularly as pianist and accompanist. He was awarded an OBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours.
Among his earliest recordings are the 1994 Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony with Mariss Jansons on EMI, and the 1995 album Masters of English Church Music on Collegium. By this time he had also begun developing his career as a conductor, over the years leading such orchestras as the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, and BBC Philharmonic. His choice of repertory with these ensembles tended to favour selections from American musicals like Wonderful Town, West Side Story, and Guys and Dolls.
In 2004 he premiered James MacMillan’s Organ Concerto, subtitled A Scotch Bestiary, recording it for the Chandos label in 2006. Among other recordings is the 2006 Virgin CD of Bernstein works, on which Marshall appears as pianist with conductor Paavo Järvi.
Wayne and I have worked together for over a quarter of a century, with various choirs and most recently with Hertfordshire Chorus. Our first collaboration was in the mid-90s at the Lakeside Open Air concerts at Kenwood in Hampstead. It was of course Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, the work I have shared with him the most over the years. I have also worked with Wayne in his roles as a pianist and an organist – in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass.
He is a truly gifted musician who lights up the concert stage and inspires all who work with him. When he conducts Porgy and Bess there is a short time when he leaps off the podium and plays the honkytonk piano in the character of Jasbo Brown. Just before our recent performance in Poland, the piano toppled over backstage and fell apart. It was stuck back together and sounded honkier and tonkier than ever!
I am delighted that Wayne has become Hertfordshire Chorus’s first Honorary Music Patron and I look forward to working with him again in the future.
English composer Will Todd is well known for his beautiful and exciting music. His work encompasses choral works large and small, opera, musical theatre, and orchestral pieces, as well as jazz compositions and chamber works.
His anthem, The Call of Wisdom, was performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a TV audience of 45 million people. His breakthrough work, Mass in Blue has been performed hundreds of times all over the world. His arrangement of Amazing Grace was performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Day prayer service in 2013 and as part of the BBC’s Nelson Mandela Thanksgiving Service.
His discography includes best selling choral discs Lux Et Veritas and The Call of Wisdom, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Mass in Blue, Ode to a Nightingale, Passion Music, and Jazz Missa Brevis, all on the Signum Classic label. His clarinet concerto recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Emma Johnson was released in 2016. His music is regularly broadcast on Classic FM, as well as on BBC Radio 3.
Will Todd’s music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, often incorporating jazz colours, and his choral music is much in demand from amateur as well as professional performers.
Recent commissions include an oratorio for The Bach Choir written with former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and operas for Welsh National Opera and Opera North.
I first met Will in the mid-90s after he had sent me some of his compositions. As you can imagine, I get sent music all of the time… but this particular composer stood out above the rest. Our first commission together was The Burning Road, a work to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the famous Jarrow March. This was with my Northampton Bach Choir and we performed the work in Northampton (one of the towns on the march) and also in Durham Cathedral. In 2007 Hertfordshire Chorus and I gave the work in Sage Gateshead.
His most famous commission, Mass in Blue, was a Hertfordshire Chorus commission. Will has become a big name in the world of music and further commissions include Ode to a Nightingale (Hertfordshire Chorus in 2011), and Rage against the dying of the light (Crouch End Festival Chorus in 2014).
Will’s relationship with Hertfordshire Chorus has always been very special and so it is such a thrill to welcome him as an Honorary Music Patron.
British mezzo-soprano Diana Moore has established herself as a firm favourite with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, acclaimed for her unique voice which ‘combines the range of a mezzo with the tone quality of a contralto’ (Gramophone), described by San Francisco Classical Voice as ‘warm, plush, full and eminently smooth’. Diana’s approach – ‘a mixture of intelligence with musicianship [and] emotional depth’ (The Guardian) – has led to repeat engagements with many of the world’s leading music ensembles, and frequent collaborations with eminent conductors.
A recognised Handelian, Diana has performed roles for many noted opera companies and festivals across Europe. She has also appeared at Baroque Festivals around the World with performances of Handel’s oratorio and choral works, and has performed his Messiah extensively across North America at numerous prestigious venues. Equally adept in later musical styles and genres, Diana has become a leading exponent of English music in oratorio, concert and recital work. She is particularly praised for her interpretations of the music of Edward Elgar.
A critically acclaimed recitalist, Diana is building a reputation for innovative performances which combine carefully curated musical programmes with extended scripted narration. These include A Celebration of Kathleen Ferrier: Her Life, Letters and Music; Wearing the Trousers: the extraordinary women who inspired Handel’s travesti roles; and Circles within Circles – the life and music of William Busch.
When I first heard Diana sing, I immediately thought of Kathleen Ferrier. It turns out that Diana’s vocal heroine is the very person she reminds me of.
I love working with Diana! She has the most wonderful voice and is also a consummate musician. As you may know, Handel’s Messiah is an iconic work, but it is also very long. Most conductors (including me) observe the usual cuts, which often includes the repeat in the aria He was despised. NEVER with Diana, who sings the full aria and demands your attention throughout. Many audience members have considered her performance of the aria the highlight of the concert.
Diana is equally at home in early and modern music, such is her versatility. Most of the soloists I choose to work with are delightful people (one of the reasons why I like to work with them), with a generous and encouraging attitude towards high class choral singing. Diana’s relationship with Hertfordshire Chorus is a perfect example of this. I am delighted to welcome Diana as an Honorary Music Patron.
James McCarthy was born in Rush Green, Dagenham, in November 1979, and grew up in Romford, Havering. He began piano lessons aged 6 and shortly after began improvising and composing music. He went on to study at Royal Holloway, University of London, and graduated with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music.
He wrote two operas and numerous orchestral pieces in his twenties but it wasn’t until his first large-scale choral work, 17 Days, that he truly found his unmistakable musical voice. 17 Days went on to be performed several times in the UK and also in Wellington, New Zealand, and it began a series of hugely ambitious, large-scale compositions. It was followed by Codebreaker and Malala in 2014, and One Giant Leap in 2019. The critically-acclaimed Codebreaker was commissioned by Hertfordshire Chorus. It has been performed around the world, and recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra, Hertfordshire Chorus, Julia Doyle and David Temple. The album went straight in at No 7 in the UK Classical Charts.
James McCarthy’s highly emotional and distinctive music has been broadcast and performed around the world. What binds all of his music together is a fascination with storytelling.
James got in touch with me about 11 years ago to ask if Hertfordshire Chorus might be interested in commissioning him. The chorus already had a commission on the books (Will Todd’s Ode to a Nightingale) so I suggested to Crouch End Festival Chorus who were on the lookout for a new work if they could commission James. His work 17 Days about the 2010 Chilean Mining Accident proved to be a huge success both with performers and audience.
When Hertfordshire Chorus next commissioned a work, they turned to James who composed Codebreaker, an exploration of the life and work of Alan Turing, the Bletchley Park codebreaker in World War 2. There is something deeply touching about James’s music, which looks simple on the page but in real sound it springs to life and draws out such profound emotions. He is also brilliant at choosing texts which fit so perfectly to the work’s subject.
On top of everything else, he is such a lovely man and so it is so fitting that he should become an Honorary Music Patron.
Bass-baritone Ashley Riches studied at King’s College, Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and was later a Jette Parker Young Artist at The Royal Opera House and a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist.
On the operatic stage he has sung Figaro and Count Almaviva Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Escamillo Carmen, Schaunard La Boheme and the Pirate King The Pirates of Penzance, at houses including The Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Garsington, the Grange Festival, and Opera Holland Park. He is scheduled to make his house debut with Santa Fe Opera as Figaro Le Nozze di Figaro and Bottom A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2021.
Highlights on the concert platform include Berlioz’s Lélio with Sir John Eliot Gardiner in Carnegie Hall, New York, Bernstein’s Wonderful Town with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle, a European tour of Giulio Cesare and Agrippina with Les Talens Lyriques with Christophe Rousset, and Creon in Oedipus Rex with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
In recital, he has collaborated with pianists including Graham Johnson, Iain Burnside, Julius Drake, Joseph Middleton, Anna Tilbrook, James Baillieu, Simon Lepper, Gary Matthewman and Sholto Kynoch.
Ashley has a fast-growing discography including the BBC Music Magazine 2020 Recording of the Year, Purcell’s King Arthur with Gabrieli and Wonderful Town with the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle. His debut solo-disc for Chandos, Musical Zoo was released in March 2021.
Ashley is one of the world’s leading baritones and we are so proud to have worked with him for many years since his early days as an emerging singer.
His first concert with Hertfordshire Chorus was in 2010 where, in the dress rehearsal, he opened the choral element of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the words ‘O Freunde…’. It was clear from that moment that he was a special talent and it reminded me of my first time working with another young baritone named Bryn Terfel! Since then, Ashley has sung with the chorus on many occasions including Brahms Requiem, Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, Five Mystical Songs, Dona nobis pacem and Bach’s St John Passion.
As a singer, he is equally at home in solo recitals, opera and concert works. His performances are immaculate, with profound interpretative vision and such clear words. Ashley’s relationship with Hertfordshire Chorus and me is very special and so he is a very obvious choice to be an Honorary Music Patron.
Guy Johnston is one of the most exciting British cellists of his generation. His early successes included winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year, the Shell London Symphony Orchestra Gerald MacDonald Award and a Classical Brit. He has a world-wide reputation, performing with many leading international orchestras. As a chamber musician he has given recitals at prestigious venues and festivals across Europe.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Guy was privileged to perform as part of the Wigmore Hall and BBC Radio 3 special series of concerts, and gave weekly outdoor impromptu recitals in his home village in Dorset, also featured by the BBC.
A prolific recording artist, Guy’s recent recordings include Howells’ Cello Concerto with the Britten Sinfonia and a celebration disc of the tricentenary of his David Tecchler cello, collaborating with the acclaimed Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where the cello was made. The 2019 season saw the release of his recording Themes and Variations with Tom Poster, comprising works by Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Rachmaninov, MacMillan, Fauré and Martinu.
Guy is a passionate advocate for contemporary composers, regularly commissioning, performing, and recording new works. In addition to a busy and versatile career as an international soloist, chamber musician and guest principal, Guy is an inspiring leader of young musicians as a patron of several charities which promote music education for school children and young people, including Music First and Future Talent.
Guy is Artistic Director of the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival and a founder member of the award-winning Aronowitz Ensemble. He is Associate Professor of Cello at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and a guest Professor of Cello at the Royal Academy of Music.
I have known Guy’s father, David, probably since around the time that Guy was born. I was a deputy headteacher in the London Borough of Barnet and David Johnston was a clarinetist and instrumental teacher. I became aware of the amazing work David and his wife Gill had achieved with Harpenden Musicale and so it came as no surprise when David told me that his young son, Guy, was a chorister at Kings College Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury.
It was around ten years after that Guy, now a virtuoso cellist, won the BBC Young Musician of the Year.
I have followed Guy’s career since then and it was such a pleasure when Guy invited Hertfordshire Chorus to appear regularly in his annual Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival. Guy is always so full of praise for Hertfordshire Chorus and it seems so fitting that he should become an Honorary Music Patron of his local choir.
Alia Rose photography
Named by The Guardian as a composer “who will enrich your life”, Shruthi Rajasekar’s family originated in South India. Her parents moved to the USA after a short stay in the UK and their daughter was born in the US. Her mother is internationally renowned Carnatic musician Nirmala Rajasekar, so Shruthi has grown up steeped in both South Indian and Western traditions from an early age.
Shruthi is a graduate of Princeton University and was subsequently awarded a Marshall Scholarship in 2018 to study composition and ethnomusicology in the UK. Her work was summed up in the recommendation for this scholarship as ‘not only exquisitely beautiful but able, skilfully to honour and transcend cultural boundaries between Indian and Western classical music’.
As a soprano and Carnatic vocalist, Shruthi has been recognised by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the internationally-televised Carnatic Music Idol USA. She is passionate about exploring the intersection between Indian music and Western classical music and expressing facets of the post-colonial legacy through the combination of these genres.
She was awarded the Global Women in Music Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights & Donne in Musica Adkins Chiti Foundation. Shruthi has been an artist-in-residence at Tusen Takk Foundation, Britten Pears Arts, and the Anderson Center. Shruthi lives in Minnesota and serves on the board of new music chamber ensemble Zeitgeist.
Hertfordshire Chorus is a passionate, sincere, and fantastic choir. I had the privilege of working with them to bring Sarojini to life in October 2022. Sarojini, which Hertfordshire Chorus commissioned and presented the world premiere of, was a deeply meaningful and personal project for me to create, and it was a powerful experience for all of us to share in this and ponder what comes next in the British-South Asian cultural dialogue. I’m very grateful that this stellar choir and their amazing director, David Temple MBE, allowed me to bring the topic of colonialism to the table; as Honorary Music Patron, I look forward to supporting the choir and cheering them on as they continue to tackle the important themes and conversations of our world today.
I am often uncomfortable in ‘meet and greet’ social gatherings and this is how I was in January 2020 at a Royal Albert Hall event to launch a recording by the wonderful National Youth Choir of Great Britain. At this point I took the plunge and decided to speak to a young Indian composer who I now know to be Shruthi Rajasekar. We seemed to have much in common – and later in the evening I heard Shruthi’s beautiful music being performed, which inspired me to get in touch and discuss a possible commission. I suggested to the choir’s council that we should commission this immensely promising composer.
Having heard some of Shruthi’s music, they were totally committed to the idea of a commission. Then COVID struck and Shruthi went back home to the USA and so many of our discussions were held on Zoom. I was very keen for Shruthi to create a piece which featured the classical cultures of both Europe/USA and India. We were also passionate about it being a secular piece with, perhaps, a major historical figure from India. Shruthi suggested Sarojini Naidu, which was perfect! She then got down to work and composed a totally wonderful piece called Sarojini, which is uplifting, sometimes disturbing, and always inspiring. Shruthi very courteously asked if we would be OK if she made negative reference to the British colonial rule and I insisted that she should!
Shruthi is a young composer very near the start of her career and I hope that this substantial and epic work will help to raise awareness of what a special talent she is.
She was a delight to work with in the build up to the first performance, which was a total success. She has a winning way of engaging those who perform her music, partly because of her personality but also very much down to the appeal of the work itself. I am delighted that she has agreed to become an Honorary Music Patron.