Born and raised in Edinburgh, Judy Brown received her early musical training as a chorister at St Mary’s Music School, where she had lessons with Margaret Aronson. She read music at the University of Edinburgh, where she was a finalist in the Donald Tovey Memorial Prize and became the first female alto lay clerk to be appointed to the choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.
While in Scotland Judy studied with Patricia MacMahon and sang in concert with the Tallis Scholars in the East Neuk Festival, with the Dunedin Consort in the Festival Internacional de Músiques de Torroella de Montgrí, and participated in the Taipei International Choral Festival, Taiwan. As a soloist she sang Handel’s Messiah for Sospiro Baroque, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle for the Scottish Chamber Choir and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for the St Magnus Festival Chorus under Martyn Brabbins.
In 2012 Judy participated in the Crear Mastercourse and is one of Malcolm Martineau’s Crear Scholars. She was awarded the Bucher Fraser Scholarship for postgraduate study by the University of Edinburgh, was generously supported by the Trufflehunter fund and the Sir Richard Stapley Trust, and was the inaugural recipient of the Von Ibler – Innes Schola Cantorum of Edinburgh award to help her pursue postgraduate study in London. She graduated with a Masters in vocal performance from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she studied with Susan Waters.
In demand as a soloist and consort singer with a broad range and extensive repertoire, she works frequently with Academy of Ancient Music, Monteverdi Choir, Dunedin Consort, City Bach Collective and Scottish Opera, and has performed at the Proms, Aix-en-Provence Festival, London Handel Festival, Handel Festival in Halle, Germany, St Magnus Festival in Orkney, Edinburgh International Festival and Tête-à-Tête opera festival.
Her repertoire ranges from the contemporary – Spirit Harbour, Lliam Paterson, Tête-à-Tête opera festival; 5 Acts of Harry Patch, Peter Maxwell-Davies, Grosvenor Chapel; Six Celan Songs, Michael Nyman, Barbican, James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross – to early music – Charpentier’s Les Plaisirs de Versailles, London Handel Festival; Buxtehude’s Jesu Membra Nostri, Ross-on-Wye Festival, the SSAA version of Vivaldi’s Gloria in St John’s Smith Square for International Women’s Day.
A sought-after alto soloist for oratorio work, she regularly performs across the UK in Handel’s Messiah and Dixit Dominus, Mozart’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Bach’s Passions, Mass in B minor and Magnificat, and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and recently sang her first Angel in a huge performance of The Dream of Gerontius by Elgar with massed choral societies of Epsom and Barnes in Southwark Cathedral.
Solo recital projects have included Debussy chansons in St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh; Wagner, Strauss and Mahler in the Edinburgh International Festival as part of Songlines; music by composers and poets of WW1 in St Martin-in-the-Fields; contemporary settings of Shakespeare sonnets for Song in the City, and a solo lieder recital of Schubert and Hans Gál in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh where her lieder singing was praised for its “dynamism and delicacy”. She sings with the City Bach Collective and the Kellie Consort, presenting solo Bach cantatas with period chamber ensembles. Work with larger ensembles includes Britten’s Phaedra, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony, and Elgar’s Sea Pictures, and she gave the second ever performance and Orcadian premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Birds with the St Andrews New Music Ensemble, alongside works by Errollyn Wallen.
On stage she has sung the role of Mrs Noye in Noye’s Fludde, Juno in both Handel’s Semele and Charpentier’s Actéon changé en biche, performed in a new music and theatre piece Why does the Queen die? by Iain Burnside (revived after a successful premiere at the Oxford Lieder Festival) and played a fox and a Japanese warrior in the Tête-à-Tête opera festival. She sings for the chorus of Scottish Opera. In Opera Magazine her performance in the role of Äbtissin in Hans Gál’s opera Das Lied der Nacht was highlighted; “contralto Judy Brown lent distinction … brought all the requisite steadiness, purity, dignity and command.”
Judy has sung in masterclasses with Sarah Walker, Eugene Asti, Amanda Roocroft, Manuela Ochakovski and Estonian voice improvisation expert Anne-Liis Poll. She receives coaching from Graeme Danby and contralto Hilary Summers.
Judy is also a keen ceramicist, and when not singing can be found throwing pots in the studio in Brockley.