Making his debut with Dunedin Consort is Neal Davies who will perform the role of Christus in our upcoming Matthew Passion performances
This is your first time working with Dunedin Consort! As a soloist, how do you manage the experience of stepping into such huge roles when you haven’t worked with a specific group of musicians before?
This is my first time working with the Dunedin Consort and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve admired their performances and recordings for many years and I had the great pleasure of singing Handel’s Saul with John Butt at the Edinburgh International Festival last summer, so I know I’m in for a treat. Really to answer the question; it’s just what we do as performers. I’ve sung the part of Christus and the bass arias many times in different performances and I have always mentally sung along with all the choruses and chorales, so what a treat to get to sing them all in these particular performances! I’ve always approached working with new groups with an open mind, it never does to be too fixed in any particular approach to a piece, particularly one as monumental as the Matthew Passion.
For so many singers, Bach’s Matthew Passion forms a key part of their performing year. Is it the same for you?
Yes most definitely, the Matthew and the John have been a fixture in my year for as long as I have been singing. There is definitely something special about singing it on Good Friday, regardless of one’s individual beliefs or none.
Dunedin Consort’s take on the Matthew Passion asks for a small team of soloists and ripienist singers to deliver the entire work with the same stamina, directness and intensity as a full chorus. How do you feel about the pared-down approach? Is it something you’ve done before?
I have done pared-down Bach before; the John Passion, Magnificat and Easter Oratorio, all one to a part, as well as the B minor Mass. It will be my first time singing the Matthew Passion like this and as I have said I’m looking forward to it hugely. It means you have to listen to everyone else and work so much more as a team, true ensemble singing, which is very rewarding. It also means the text is clear and immediate for the performers and listeners alike. Something I’m very keen on.
Which gets your vote: John or Matthew?
Matthew or John? It’s like so many other things… the one you are doing at the time!