The Soloists

We are very grateful to our talented soloists for their fantastic performances under very challenging conditions!

Elijah – Sir Thomas Allen

Photography by Sussie Ahlburg

Sir Thomas Allen is an established star of the great opera houses of the world. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where in 2011 he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his debut with the company, he has sung over fifty roles. The same year he also celebrated the 30th anniversary of his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He returns to the Metropolitan Opera in 17/18 for his acclaimed portrayal of Baron Zeta (The Merry Widow)

He’s particularly renowned for his Billy Budd, Pelléas, Eugene Onegin, Ulisse and Beckmesser, as well as the great Mozart roles of Count Almaviva, Don Alfonso, Papageno, Guglielmo and, of course, Don Giovanni. His recent engagements have included the title role in Gianni Schicchi for Los Angeles Opera and at the Spoleto Festival; the title role in Sweeney Todd, Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Faninal (Der Rosenkavalier), Prosdocimo (Il turco in Italia), Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos), Peter (Hänsel und Gretel) and Don Alfonso at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Don Alfonso, Ulisse and Don Giovanni at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Faninal at the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia; Eisenstein at the Glyndebourne Festival; Don Alfonso at the Dallas Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals; Forester (The Cunning Little Vixen) at the San Francisco Opera and Beckmesser, Don Alfonso and Music Master at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Opera appearances in 2017 include Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos) at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Roc in The Exterminating Angel (Thomas Adés) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Equally renowned on the concert platform, he appears in recital in the United Kingdom, throughout Europe, in Australia and America, and has appeared with the world’s great orchestras and conductors. The greatest part of his repertoire has been extensively recorded with such distinguished names as Solti, Levine, Marriner, Haitink, Rattle, Sawallisch and Muti.

He made a triumphant directing debut in 2003 with Albert Herring at the Royal College of Music and went on to direct critically acclaimed productions of Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte for Samling Opera at The Sage, Gateshead.

He made an equally acclaimed U.S. directing debut with Le nozze di Figaro for Arizona Opera in 2006 and has since returned to direct Cosi at the Boston Lyric Opera and Don Pasquale at the Chicago Lyric Opera. He is a regular guest at Scottish Opera where his productions include The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute and, most recently Don Giovanni.

He is Chancellor of Durham University. His many honours include the title of Bayerischer Kammersänger awarded by the Bayerische Staatsoper, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Professor of the Royal College of Music, the Hambro Visiting Professorship of Opera Studies at Oxford University, Fellowship of the Royal College of Music, Fellowship of the University of Sunderland, M.A. from Newcastle University and a Doctorate of Music from Durham University and the University of Birmingham. In the New Year’s Honours of 1989 he was created a Commander of the British Empire and in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was made a Knight Bachelor. Among his proudest achievements is having a Channel Tunnel locomotive named after him; and most recently, being awarded the
Queen’s Medal for Music 2013.

Thomas Allen’s first book, ‘Foreign Parts – A Singer’s Journal’ was published in 1993. His film credits include ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ and ‘The Real Don Giovanni’.

Soprano – Helen Bailey

Helen Bailey was born in the North East of England and is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music (postgraduate opera course) and Trinity College of Music, initially graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a First in English Literature and Cultural History.

Helen was a finalist in the AESS competition 2013, was the recipient of the RAM’s Ernest Butcher prize 2011, and received the inaugural Buxton International Festival Young Artist’s bursary for 2016.

Helen has performed principal roles for Rose Opera (Ilia, Idomeneo), Kentish Opera (Santuzza, Cavalleria Rusticana), Red Earth Opera (Vitellia, La Clemenza di Tito), Ryedale Festival Opera (Pamina, The Magic Flute), Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival (Angel, Apollo’s Mission), Pop-Up Opera (Véronique, Le Docteur Miracle), Blackheath Halls Opera (Giannetta, The Elixir of Love) and Buxton International Festival (Dama, Macbeth; Zuma, Alzira).

Please see for more information about Helen’s upcoming performances.

21860239105_b983d1e40b_zAlto – Fiona Mackay
Mezzo-soprano Fiona Mackay studied music at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and is a graduate of Royal Academy Opera, where she studied with Elizabeth Ritchie and Audrey Hyland.
During her studies at the Royal Academy, Fiona was generously supported by the Sickle Foundation, and was also a Bach Cantata Kohn scholar and a member of the Academy’s prestigious Song Circle.Fiona recently made her principal debut with Opera Holland Park as Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw. Other recent highlights include singing the roles of Maman and La Libellule in a concert performance of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges with Stephane Denève and the BBC symphony orchestra, Rosina in Haydn’s La Vera Costanza conducted byTrevor Pinnock and Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin conducted by Jane Glover. She also performed the alto solos in Bach’s Magnificat at St John Smith Square and in the St John Passion at St Martin-in-the-fields.Other operatic roles include Second and Third Lady in The Magic Flute, Popova in Walton’s the Bear, Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, Maurya in Riders to the Sea, conducted by Peter Robinson, Ursule in Béatrice et Bénédict, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, and Lady Bertram in the London première production of Dove’s Mansfield Park.Fiona’s solo concert work has included performances at the Spitalfields, Dartington, York and Bath Music Festivals, on BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, and with the City of London Sinfonia, Thames Chamber Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra. Her oratorio repertoire includes Elgar Sea Pictures, Verdi Requiem and Handel Messiah.Upcoming performances include Durufle Requiem in King’s College Chapel, and the role of La Badessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica for Opera Holland Park.

Tenor – Conor Breen

Conor Breen is from Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, and read English Literature at The Queen’s University of Belfast, before taking up a place on NI Opera’s Young Artist Programme. He made his principal debut with the company in Strauss’s  Salome, as the Fourth Jew, and sang The Prince of Persia in their production Puccini’s Turandot. He also understudied Narraboth in  Salome, and Don Ottavio in Mozart’s  Don Giovanni. Other operatic credits include: Ambrogio in Rossini’s  Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Narrator in Greg Caffrey’s  The Chronic Identity Crisis of Pamplemousse, Il Messaggero in Verdi ‘s Aida,which was his Irish National Opera debut, and he premiered the roles of The King and The Guard in Seán Doherty’s new chamber opera,  Waking Beauty.

Conor was a Lay Clerk at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, and was invited to present two recitals for the cathedral’s annual music festival. Oratorio work includes Mendelssohn’sElijah, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C Minor, Haydn’s  The Creation, and Vaughan Williams’s  Serenade to Music with the Ulster Orchestra and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir; Haydn’s  Nelson Mass with the St Columb’s Cathedral Chamber Choir; and Pergolesi’s  Stabat Mater with St George’s Singers.

Conor was invited to perform as the tenor soloist in the world premiere of Eoghan’s Desmond’s setting of Katharine Tynan’s  The Flower of Youth which was commissioned by St Anne’s Cathedral for the centenary commemoration of the World War I armistice, and broadcast live on Armistice Day on BBC. Conor’s future engagements include the role of Dr. Blind in NI Opera’sDie Fledermaus.

Soprano – Jennifer Shell

Jennifer started singing at the age of eight in her native North of England (The Wirral). She studied singing with Doris Parkinson, and went on to win many major music festivals there including Llangollen, Blackpool and Lytham St Annes, and broadcasting regularly on national and local radio as a soloist and with the Wirral Grammar School Choir. With the mentorship of Sir Charles Groves she entered the Royal College of Music where she studied for four years with Redvers Llewllyn. Since leaving the RCM she has a had a very, very long and varied professional solo and choral career, ranging from co-starring in a Victorian musical melodrama with the late John Pertwee, to session work with Sir Elton John and the late Peter Skellern (amongst others), appearing on Top of the Pops, in films and adverts and singing for over 10 years with the BBC Singers (including First and Last Nights of the Proms, and many in between!). Jennifer has sung extensively in recitals and oratorio both in this country and abroad. She is married to tonight’s conductor. Although now retired from her full-time career, she still dedicates much time to music, especially performing in and organising concerts, particularly the Voices for Hospices Choir global event which takes place every two years on World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. As well as highlighting the work that hospices do, these performances also raise many thousands of pounds for hospices. It is the singer’s way of giving something back to society for the pleasure that music has given them!The next Voices for Hospices Choir concert will be in Winchester Cathedral on 12th October 2019. The VfHChoir will be supporting seven Hampshire Hospices on this occasion, including the newly to be opened Winchester Hospice. It is a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with Sir Thomas Allen in the title role. Jennifer is particularly excited about this concert, as she last sang the Widow Duet with Tom in 1979!

William  Holmes- treble

William is 10 years old and was born in Winchester. He joined Winchester Cathedral Choir when he was 8 and is educated as a boarder at The Pilgrims’ School with the benefit of a choral scholarship. The Winchester Cathedral Choir consists of 22 boy choristers and 12 lay clerks and sings 6 services a week in the cathedral.

Chorister highlights for William so far have included singing carols on BBC Breakfast TV on Christmas Eve; singing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Chichester with Marin Allsop and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2018 Bernstein 100 Celebrations and recording a CD of Sir John Tavener’s music ‘Angels’ with Winchester Cathedral Choir for Hyperion records.

William loves making things out of junk and playing the violin and piano, football and rugby and is an avid Spurs fan.

We are delighted that William and his sister Eleanor will be lighting the Hospice candle at the start of the concert, in memory of their grandmother who was supported by her local Hospice in Devon.