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Handel Messiah

Gregory Batsleer Chorus Director
Rowan Pierce Soprano
Catriona Morison Mezzo-Soprano
Thomas Walker Tenor
Ashley Riches Baritone
RSNO Chorus  

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Gregory Batsleer

Gregory Batsleer Chorus Director

Gregory Batsleer is widely regarded as one of the most charismatic and innovative choral conductors of his generation.

He has held the position of Chorus Director with the RSNO since 2015, and has in that time overseen an improvement in the overall standard of the RSNO Chorus as well as a rise in the RSNO’s choral activity. This has included the inauguration of the RSNO Chorus Academy, Singing Days, and the establishment of regular Come and Sing events with the Orchestra.

Since 2009, Gregory has also held the position of Chorus Director with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and last season started the newly created post of Choral Director of the Huddersfield Choral Society, where he is responsible for overseeing the Society’s artistic development. In summer 2017, Gregory co-founded Festival Voices, a professional vocal ensemble specialising in cross-discipline collaboration and performance.

As a guest conductor, highlights include performances with the RSNO, Hallé, Academy of Ancient Music, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Aurora Orchestra, Orchestra of Opera North, Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra, Black Dyke Band, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. This spring, Gregory conducts a UK-wide, fully staged production of Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Gregory has been guest chorus master for many orchestras, including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Houston Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic, working with leading conductors including Sir Mark Elder, Edward Gardner, Sir Andrew Davis, Louis Langrée, Sir Roger Norrington, Robin Ticciati, Emmanuel Krivine and Phillipe Herreweghe.

He is deeply committed to his work as a collaborator and curator. Recent projects include work with artists including Elbow, James, Tim Burgess, Damon Albarn and Clean Bandit. In 2015 he was musical consultant on Nick Drake’s play All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah at London’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. He has a close working relationship with composer Joe Duddell, and has premiered works by composers including James Burton, David Lang, Colin Metters, Uri Caine and Ben Parry. Last summer Gregory co-curated sell-out cross-art performances at London’s Southbank Centre, Latitude festival, and Wilderness festival, all featuring his new vocal ensemble Festival Voices.

Previous posts include Director of Hallé Youth Choir (2008–11), Director of Choirs at Manchester University (2009–13), and Artistic Director of the National Portrait Gallery’s choir-in-residence programme in London and the Portrait Choir (2013–17), which recently released a choral audio guide to the Gallery. Gregory currently teaches choral conducting at the University of Edinburgh and has worked as guest conductor with the University’s Chamber Orchestra and Choir.

Between 2007 and 2012, Gregory held scholarships at Princeton University, New Jersey, and London’s Royal College of Music. His outstanding work as a choral conductor was recognised with the Arts Foundation’s first ever Fellowship in Choral Conducting in 2015.

Rowan  Pierce

Rowan Pierce Soprano

Yorkshire born Rowan Pierce is a Samling Artist who has performed at the BBC Proms, Wigmore Hall, Sage Gateshead, Cheltenham, Ludlow, Bath and Ryedale Festivals with ensembles including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, Florilegium, Scottish Chamber, City of Birmingham Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras. Opera roles include Galatea, Acis & Galatea, with the Academy of Ancient Music, Susanna, The Marriage of Figaro, Miss Wordsworth, Albert Herring. Recent and future performances include The Fairy Queen with both the Academy of Ancient Music and the Gabrieli Consort, Belinda/Dido and Aeneas with AAM, Bach B minor mass with the City of London Sinfonia, Strauss songs with the BBC Scottish Symphony and Tiny, Paul Bunyan and Papagena, The Magic Flute, for English National Opera where she is a Harewood Artist.

Prizes include the Van Someren Godfery Prize, Schubert Society Singer Prize and the President’s Award at the Royal College of Music as well as winning both the song and main prizes at the Grange Festival’s inaugural singing competition.

She was generously supported by the Countess of Munster Award and Midori Nishiura at the RCM.

Catriona  Morison

Catriona Morison Mezzo-Soprano

Winner of the 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize and joint winner of the Song Prize, Scottish mezzo Catriona Morison is the first British artist to win this highly coveted award. Currently a member of the ensemble at Oper Wuppertal, her 2017-18 appearances include Maddalena Rigoletto and Hänsel Hänsel und Gretel. Away from Oper Wuppertal, engagements include an autumn tour of European festivals with MusicAeterna and Teodor Currentzis conducting Mozart Requiem as well as appearances with the BBC Orchestras and at Wigmore Hall.

Last season’s highlights at Oper Wuppertal included Nicklausse Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Clarice The Love of Three Oranges and Maddalena Rigoletto.

Recent successes include the roles of Annina Der Rosenkavalier and Kay in Albrecht’s Die Schneekönigin (The Snow Queen) in the highly lauded 2015 production, both at Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar; Giove/Pisandro Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria for Theater Erfurt, staged performances of Mozart Requiem for Theater Hof and Handel’s Alexander’s Feast for Lithuanian National Opera.

Catriona started her musical career at an early age at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) as a singer and a violist. She went on to study for her BMus (Hons) and PGDip Opera Studies at the RCS and with Prof. Julie Kaufmann at the Universität der Künste, Berlin, and graduated from the Alexander Gibson Opera School of the RCS under the tuition of Clare Shearer with a MMus Opera with Distinction in 2013. She continues to study with Prof. Siegfried Gohritz in Weimar.

The artist became a Samling Artist in 2013, and the following year she joined the Bayreuther Festspielchor and appeared in their productions of Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Der fligende Holländer. In summer 2015, Catriona joined the prestigious Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival where she made her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in Der Rosenkavalier, and participated in the YSP Final Concert with the Mozarteum Orchestra under the baton of Christoph Altstaedt. Her 2015-16 season was spent as a member of the Thüringer Opernstudio in Germany.

Other roles include Dorabella Così fan tutte at Theater Rudolstadt and the Banff Centre in Canada, Cherubino Le nozze di Figaro in Weimar, Nerone L’incoronazione di Poppea and Bianca The Rape of Lucretia for the RCS, Hermia A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Scottish Opera and Mercédès Carmen for Edinburgh Grand Opera. She appeared as a Lady of Mahagonny The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at Usher Hall for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Concert appearances include her 2013 BBC Proms debut, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, performing two of Charlotte Seither’s recent works in a Proms + Portrait. She joined Bamberger Symphoniker in February 2014 for E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Miserere. Other highlights from the concert stage include Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle conducted by Rolf Beck with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chor, Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Poland and Bach’s St John Passion conducted by Helmuth Rilling. Her other oratorio and concert repertoire includes Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae Solennes Confessore, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Christmas Oratorio, and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.

Catriona’s other competition achievements include the Toonkunst Oratorio Prize at the 50th IVC ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and finalist at the 9th International Hilde Zadek Voice Competition in Vienna.

Thomas  Walker

Thomas Walker Tenor

Born in Glasgow, Thomas Walker studied brass at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and singing with Ryland Davies at the Royal College of Music, London.

Plans for this season and beyond include Rinaldo in Haydn Armida with René Jacobs and the Basel Chamber Orchestra in Warsaw, Vienna and Basel; Don Basilio/Don Curzio Le Nozze di Figaro with Jacobs and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra on tour to Seoul and Shanghai; and his début at the Opéra national de Paris and Staatsoper Berlin as Adam in Scarlatti Il Primo Omicidio. Concerts include Evangelist St John Passion on tour with the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Daniel Reuss; Bach cantatas with Company of Music at the Wiener Konzerthaus; and Messiah with Hallé Orchestra and John Butt, and the Gabrieli Consort and Paul McCreesh.

Thomas has recently sung the title role in a new production by Tobias Kratzer of Rameau Zoroastre at the Komische Oper Berlin; Purcell Fairy Queen with Stuttgart Opera; Admeto in Gluck Alceste at the Ruhr Triennale; Sospiro in Gassmann L’opéra seria for La Monnaie, Brussels; title role in Rameau Platée for Stuttgart Opera and Don Pedrarias Davila in Peter Sellars’ new production of Purcell The Indian Queen for English National Opera. Past roles include Count Almaviva; Eurimaco The Return of Ulysses; Janek Makropulos Case; Alessandro Il Re Pastore; Quint The Turn of the Screw; Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Lindoro L’Italiana in Algeri; Pélleas; Linfea Calisto; and Letchmere Owen Wingrave for companies including the Royal Opera Covent Garden, ENO, Scottish Opera, Innsbruck Early Music Festival and on tour with Ensemble Matheus and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

Recent concerts have included Beethoven Missa Solemnis on tour with the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Daniel Reuss; title role in Handel Belshazzar with the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin and Ottavio Dantone on a European tour including the 2016 Salzburg Festival; Orff Carmina Burana at the 2015 BBC Proms; Beethoven Choral Fantasy at the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival; Elijah with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and McCreesh; Berlioz L’enfance du Christ for the Gulbenkian Foundation also with McCreesh and Haydn Die Schöpfung with the Belgian B’Rock Orchestra in Amsterdam. He has also sung Britten Les Illuminations and War Requiem; Stravinsky Pulcinella; Meyerbeer Emma di Resburgo and Tippett A Child of our Time with conductors including Sir Andrew Davis and Jeffrey Tate.

Bach appearances include St John and St Matthew Passions with the OAE and Mark Padmore and the Gabrieli Consort and Paul McCreesh; Bach Mass in F and Easter Oratorio with the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Frans Brüggen and Bach (JC, JS and CPE) Magnificat with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen (concert and recording).

Ashley  Riches

Ashley Riches Baritone

British bass-baritone Ashley Riches read English at the University of Cambridge where he was a member of the King’s College Choir. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and subsequently joined the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House. This season he joins the BBC New Generation Artist scheme.

After making his Royal Opera main stage debut in concert with Roberto Alagna, further appearances at the house included Salieri in Rimsky Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri, Michael in the world premiere of Eichbert’s Glare (Linbury Studio), Morales Carmen, Mandarin Turandot, Baron Douphol La Traviata and Officer Les Dialogues des Carmelites.

Other roles include Osmano in L’Ormindo, Marcello La Bohème, title roles Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni and Owen Wingrave, Aeneas Dido and Aeneas, Father Hänsel und Gretel, Tarquinius The Rape of Lucretia, Sid Albert Herring, Demetrius A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ibn-Hakia Iolanta. He made his debut for English National Opera as Schaunard La Bohème and returned last season as The Pirate King The Pirates of Penzance. Other recent highlights include Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with the Academy of Ancient Music, Apollo e Dafne with the Pannon Philharmonic in Hungary, Israel in Egypt with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Christmas Oratorio on tour with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

In concert, he has appeared with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Arcangelo, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Gabrieli Consort, Berlin Philharmonic, Monteverdi Orchestra and Academy of Ancient Music under some of the world’s finest conductors including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robin Ticciati, Richard Egarr, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Peter Dijkstra, Christian Curnyn and Sir Roger Norrington. He has performed at festivals including Southwell, Flanders, Three Choirs, City of London, Schubert, Ludlow and most recently at the BBC Proms.

His recordings include Poulenc Chansons Gaillardes with Graham Johnson for Hyperion, a solo disc of Shakespeare Sonnets set to music by Mario Castelnuovo-Tadesco, St John Passion with Bach Camerata for Chandos, St Matthew Passion with English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Hayden Paukenmesse with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He also made a television appearance in David Starkey’s series Music and the Monarchy.

Highlights of the 2017/18 season include his first Count Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro at the English National Opera, Claudio Agrippina at the Grange Festival, Purcell’s King Arthur with the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr, Schumann Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Egarr and Levite Solomon also with the SCO under Peter Dijkstra, Mozart Requiem with the Bremen Philharmonic under Paul McCreesh, and Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He will also give recitals with Joseph Middleton at the Wigmore Hall (BBC lunchtime series), Sheffield and Leeds Universities, as well as at the Oxford Lieder Festival with Sholto Kynoch.

 RSNO Chorus

RSNO Chorus  

The RSNO Chorus performs in around six different programmes in up to twenty concerts across Scotland with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra each year. The RSNO Chorus has also had great success in recording with the Orchestra. Its recordings, amongst others, of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, conducted by Neeme J?rvi, and Holst’s The Planets, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, have both been subject to high critical acclaim. In addition to its commitment to the Orchestra, the RSNO Chorus performs independently and has been invited to perform with orchestras in many different parts of the world, establishing an international status for the choir. The RSNO Chorus has toured in Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Israel, Germany, Belfast, Australia, Trondheim and most recently, Amsterdam. The RSNO Chorus evolved from a choir formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel’s Messiah in Scotland. Today, the RSNO Chorus is one of the most successful choruses in the UK. In recent years, the Chorus has performed practically every work in the standard choral repertoire along with contemporary works by renowned composers, including John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, Howard Shore and James MacMillan. The RSNO Chorus is directed by Gregory Batsleer, one of the UK’s most dynamic and in demand choral conductors and chorus masters. Gregory recently received The Arts Foundation Award 2015 for Choral Conducting.