Farley Music Festival : Sacred & Secular with the Sarum Six
A journey through the English choral landscape with the country’s latest male voice ensemble, led by Philip Lawson.
Steve Abbott (first countertenor)
The Farley Music Festival 2013 – a feast of classical music in the charming setting of All Saints’ Church, Farley
All Saints’ Church, Farley, Salisbury SP5 1AH
Tickets (£15) on sale now from Salisbury Playhouse box office 01722 320333 or on-line
Steve Abbott (first countertenor) started his musical career as a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral, under the direction of Richard Seal. After big school and London University, he joined Winchester Cathedral Choir as a Bass (well, sort of Bass), whilst completing a PGCE at King Alfred’s College. Following a teaching post in Northamptonshire, he returned to Salisbury in 1983, to teach Music at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, and two years later re-joined the Cathedral Choir as an Alto. At BWS, he has directed the choir for many years, making regular recordings and trips abroad, and in this capacity, he has been able to subject members of the choir to his numerous choral arrangements. He also has pastoral responsibility for boys in the Lower School, and after whatever the day throws at him, just manages to escape at the end, in time to rehearse for daily Evensong. He has been married twice. But to the same person. He married first, aged 16, on stage, thanks to Gilbert and Sullivan, and then made it official a few years later. He and Kate share their home with two cats and Alfie, a Shetland-pony-sized black Labrador: their two children having left home. Well, sort of.
Tim Wilson (second countertenor) was hailed by Gramophone as ‘treble of the decade’ as a Winchester chorister and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music after which he won Young Concert Artists and the Kathleen Ferrier Prize. Tim sang at the 1981 Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana and with groups like the Tallis Scholars, the Gabrieli Consort and the BBC Singers. Solo work then took over with oratorio and recital performances taking Tim from the Cayman Islands to the Philippines. He went on to sing major countertenor opera roles at home and abroad including Mitridate and Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the mid 90’s. After tiring of treading the boards and racking up the air miles, Tim gave up living out of a suitcase and got a proper(ish) job with Mercedes Benz before moving into the world of property. He went on to live and work in Marbella, Dubai and Lanzarote before returning to live and sing at St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle in 2007.Last year Tim and his wife Chris moved to the sunny climes of Wiltshire where they have built a thatched cottage in Alderbury.
Michael Keeley (tenor) was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral and attended Bishop Wordsworth School. After studying music at Goldsmith’s College, London, he spent three years as a Lay Clerk at Lichfield Cathedral. In 1990 he became Assistant Director of Music at The Godolphin School in Salisbury where he taught for three years. Michael was appointed to his present post as Director of Music and Senior Teacher at More House School, Knightsbridge in 1993. He was an Assistant Vicar Choral in the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral from 1994 to 2011. Michael continues to sing regularly at St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and with other choirs and groups as his teaching commitments allow. He recently returned to his home village of Whiteparish to conduct a performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria as part of the local music festival. Michael lists cycling and curry amongst his interests.
Currently a Lay Clerk in Winchester Cathedral Choir, Ben Cooper (first baritone) began singing at an early age in the choir of his local parish church. He went on to study piano at the Colchester Institute School of Music, where he also held a Choral Scholarship at Chelmsford Cathedral. Ben has worked with many groups. He has previously held positions as a Lay Clerk at Worcester Cathedral and in the Schola Cantorum of Tewkesbury Abbey, making many recordings and broadcasts. As the first baritone with the International award winning a cappella sextet the Songmen, Ben gave concerts throughout Europe and recorded a CARA nominated studio album ‘Midnight’. Working as an accompanist, he has worked with both groups and soloists, making recordings with Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir. He is now enjoying encouraging the next generation of pianists, as a visiting music teacher in Hampshire.
Philip Lawson (second baritone) began his professional singing in London in the late 1970s when he performed regularly with choirs such as the BBC Singers, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The “height” of his career arrived as early as 1986 when he and the three other members of the vocal ensemble Quodlibet were hired by ITV’s “Game for a Laugh” to perform part of the Monteverdi Vespers while skydiving from 13,000 feet! By 1982 Philip had relocated to Salisbury where he was for 11 years the Decani Bass in the Cathedral Choir, and for much of that time also Director of Music at Chafyn Grove School. Southern Cathedrals Festival audiences might remember his rather inept attempts at acting, beardless, the part of Biggles in the Fringe shows in 1988 and 1992, for which he also set Andrew Mackay’s brilliant plays to music. In 1993 Philip successfully auditioned for the part of second baritone in The King’s Singers, replacing founder-member Simon Carrington, and after three years switched to the high baritone part. In 2012, after 18 years of full-time touring and recording with this somewhat busy group, he decided to return to a life of relative normality, as a vocal arranger/composer and singing teacher (Wells Cathedral School and St. Edmund’s Salisbury), and to the relative vocal comfort of the lower baritone part in Sarum Six!
James Ottaway (bass) was a chorister, and later a music student, at King’s College, Cambridge. His diverse range of solo performing experience has taken him to Sicily with Pro Cantiones Antiqua, Tel Aviv with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the London Sinfonietta, Sadlers Wells with London Festival Ballet, the Amsterdam Concertgebow with the Schoenberg Ensemble, and festivals in France, Italy, Germany and Spain with the Deller Consort, as well as many oratorio appearances with British choral societies. More unusual experiences include being attacked by flying ants during a open-air concert in Provence, singing to an audience of five with the Light Blues in Sweden, due to a lack of publicity, smoking on stage while trying to sing a Mozart aria with Opera East, and performing for Netherlands Opera with a bald yellow head and purple nose, a style which his wife regarded as something of an improvement. James has taught singing at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, Exeter and Warwick Universities, and Christ’s and Jesus Colleges in Cambridge, and has taught on courses at the Deller Academy in Provence, Early Music Wales, and Stavanger College of Music in Norway. He currently teaches at Winchester College, Sherborne School, South Wilts Grammar School for Girls, and privately in Salisbury. After Richard he probably has the most hair in Sarum Six, a situation he hopes will last for a while longer.