Meet the Artists

EVENT ONE: J.S. Bach with Amici Voices & Players

Monday 8 July at 8pm | St Andrew’s Alexandra Park Road
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Helen Charlston

HELEN CHARLSTON (mezzo-soprano)

I work in the UK and internationally as a soloist giving recitals and concerts in festivals across the world. Last year I won the London Handel Singing Competition, and I am a City Music Foundation Artist. I spend quite a large proportion of my time singing the music of the baroque period by composers such as Handel and Bach, and as part of my interest in that sound world I run Amici Voices with whom I am going to be performing in the opening concert of the festival.

Amici Voices was formed for a performance of Bach’s John Passion back in 2012. As the name suggests the group prides itself on making music with friends, and I hope we present a really open and fun way of making music to people who perform with us and for our audience. Bach’s music can be performed in all sorts of different ways: by large choral societies with tens or hundreds of people on a part, by church choirs, small ensembles with or without conductors at ‘modern pitch’ or ‘baroque pitch’, and the amazing thing is that however you perform it, it works.

As Amici Voices we aim to look back to how Bach might have heard the music at the time – playing on historical instruments with just one or two voices and one instrument on each part. We also work without a conductor, creating a lot more individual responsibility within the group, and the reward for that is the endless possibilities of interaction and reaction between the performers. I think of it as chamber music – like that of a string quartet – the whole ensemble, singers and voices, work together to breathe life into the music as one. 

What are you most looking forward to about your event?

We’ll be performing an all Bach programme including one of his most loved Cantatas for alto solo, oboe and strings – Vergnügte Ruh, sung by me. It’s always a pleasure to sing this piece and I haven’t preformed it for a couple of years so when I was planning this concert with Owain and Hannah I knew if was the perfect opportunity to get it out again!

Which other event in the festival has caught your eye?

Chapel Perilous’ concert on the 9th looks very interesting. I always love hearing Hildegard’s music, and have no doubt that pairing it with Taverner and Pärt will create quite an atmosphere! I also love Michel Legrand, so Ben and Alice’s concert on the Friday evening jumps out and is doubtless not one to miss.

What’s something you love about North London?

North London, like London generally, is so full of contrast. I love standing up on one of many hills and looking back towards the city. There’s something so wonderful about being to survey the skyline of London, and there’s nowhere better to do it than Muswell Hill! 


Louise Ayrton

I come from France but have been living in the UK for the past six years. I’m a violinist specialising in historical performance practice, the Renaissance and Baroque eras in particular. 

What are you most looking forward to about your event?

There are worse things in life than the chance to play Bach with great friends.

Which other event in the festival has caught your eye?

Both events on 9th of July, Chapel Perilous and late night compline, seem to match wonderfully and I’m excited to see how they explore themes of prayer and meditation through music and performance practice. Also, Hildegard von Bingen is on the programme which nurtures my anachronistic crush on her. 

What’s something you love about North London?

It’s a bit greener and more peaceful than Central London and I find that conducive to creativity.

EVENT TWO: Chapel Perilous: The Hidden Face

Tuesday 9 July at 8pm | St Michael’s Highgate
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GUY JAMES (countertenor)

Guy James

I’m Guy James and I am a countertenor, which means I have one of the highest male singing voices using my falsetto. I studied Chemistry at Cambridge University and I have been a professional singer now for 5 years. I sing regularly with The Gesualdo Six and also with an Italian group called Odhecaton, and in-between that I can normally be found singing in one of about 30 churches or watching my right-arm medium-fast bowling being dispatched around the cricket fields of London.

I first had the idea for Chapel Perilous when reading about the war-poet David Jones. Thomas Dilworth recounts in his book an anecdote from Jones’ time in the trenches, when he was scavenging for firewood and he came across a Catholic mass in a smashed barn just behind the lines. Dilworth suggested that peeking into this ‘Chapel Perilous’ has a profound effect on Jones, who later converted to catholicism. Chapel Perilous at that moment became a home of a growing selection of texts, works and ideas that now have a creative outlet. Future plans will involve a chamber choir and a small instrumental ensemble, but for our first incarnation we will be presenting a selection of chamber and solo works for combinations of countertenor, oboe, violin, viola and piano.

What are you most looking forward to about your event?

It’s such an honour to be launching our first concert as part of Muswell Hill Music Festival. Working with the Chapel Perilous team intensively for the first time will be a real opportunity, and I’m excited to watch the group expand and explore some really amazing repertoire. I’m really excited to share the program with the audience as I’ve been working really hard putting it together!

Which other event in the festival has caught your eye?

I’m perhaps predictably excited to sing compline with The Gesualdo Six after Chapel Perilous’ concert in St. Michael’s Highgate. This will be the first ever liturgical performance by the group, which has been going for over 5 years now, and entrance is free! I’m also excited to be appearing alongside so many of my friends, and of those I’m especially sure that Helen Charlston’s singing in the Amici Voices concert will be particularly spectacular.

What’s something you love about North London?

I have worked a lot around Hampstead Heath, and I used to live in Stoke Newington, so I have a real soft-spot for North London. I love the perspective that you can get on London from Primrose and Muswell Hills. Watching the sun go down from there is always magic, and a great way of momentarily transcending the mad rush of the place!

EVENT THREE: Compline with The Gesualdo Six

Tuesday 9 July at 9.30pm | St Michael’s Highgate
Free admission (unticketed)

JOSEPH WICKS (tenor) and Michael Craddock (baritone)

Joseph Wicks

We are The Gesualdo Six: two altos, two tenors, baritone and bass, with our director (and the festival’s!) Owain. We formed back in 2014 in Cambridge or a very specific purpose: one concert, in which we performed Gesualdo’s astounding ‘Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday’. There were six of us singing and there’s already a group called Tenebrae, so the name was obvious really! Here we are five years and well over one hundred concerts later, and these days we sing everything from the medieval to new commissions.

What are you most looking forward to about your event?

The group has very rarely performed at a liturgical event, despite a great deal of our repertoire having been written for sacred worship. It’s nice to have the chance to deliver reflective music in I think it’s most appropriate setting, that of a late evening contemplative service environment. And the church is beautiful!

Which other event in the festival has caught your eye?

We can’t wait to turn out to support our countertenor Guy’s debut concert with Chapel Perilous, a really exciting sounding programme of some lesser heard gems. Luckily, this concert happens directly before our Compline, so we should get to hear it!

What’s something you love about North London?

We are (mostly) all big cricket fans, so I’m going to say the spiritual home of the game, and thoroughly excellent place for a day out, Lord’s.