• Choral & Opera
  • Cape Town Opera

    Making their first-ever UK visit, Cape Town Opera brought their vibrant and heartfelt production of “Porgy and Bess” to Wales Millennium Centre, Edinburgh Festival Theatre and London’s Royal Festival Hall during October 2009. The performances won huge acclaim from audiences and critics alike, with The Times declaring that “on the strength of its glorious Gershwin, Cape Town Opera should be invited back – soon and often”.

    Cape Town Opera returned to the UK in June/July 2012 for seven weeks of touring with both “Porgy and Bess” and the European premiere of a new production “Mandela Trilogy – A Musical Tribute to the Life of Nelson Mandela”.

    Set in three acts by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin, “Porgy and Bess” is widely regarded as one of the operatic masterpieces of the 20th century, and features much-loved songs such as “Summertime”, “It ain’t necessarily so” and “Bess, you is my woman now”. In the hands of Cape Town Opera, many of whose singers are drawn from the city’s townships, the work has a newfound power and relevance.

    From prisoner to president, “Mandela Trilogy” tells the extraordinary life story of Nelson Mandela. Set in three contrasting sections – highlighting Mandela’s traditional upbringing in the Eastern Cape; the turbulent but heady atmosphere of the townships at the onset of Apartheid; and finally Mandela’s long years in prison – the production employs a variety of musical styles, as well as an outstanding cast of over 40 performers, to cast new light on one of the world’s most iconic figures.

    Cape Town Opera, a non-profit organisation, inspires, entertains and develops audiences through its acclaimed stage productions, educational outreach and community development programmes and unsurpassed training and skills development initiatives. It boasts a hugely talented ensemble of predominantly black singers and presents an extensive programme of world-class productions. The company is committed to the continued performance and development of opera, operetta and musical theatre in South Africa and aspires to be a source of national pride, enriching the lives of all South Africans. Cape Town Opera is at the forefront of transformation in the performing arts and is regarded as a key-player in providing training and job opportunities to artists from previously disadvantaged communities. These performers often come to Cape Town Opera with little formal training but have a passion for choral singing and a natural ability that shines from stage.

    The Cape Town Opera Chorus performs in the company’s main opera productions, educational school tours, public concerts and fundraisers. Their continuing education at Cape Town Opera includes master classes, individual voice lessons, physical training, as well as music and stagecraft instruction. Under the guidance of Chorus Master Albert Horne, the Chorus has performed at numerous local and international venues and events, with an impressive repertoire drawn from diverse genres, and consists of singers drawn from communities across South Africa. The core group of this Chorus is Cape Town Opera’s resident choral group, the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Ensemble, 23 talented singers who are considered the artistic ambassadors for Cape Town Opera’s unique operatic sound, having performed across South Africa and numerous international cities, such as London, Berlin, Munich, Oslo and Paris. The Voice of the Nation Ensemble forms the musical backbone of Cape Town Opera’s productions – not only as the chorus component, but also performing individual, smaller roles.

  • Choral & Opera
  • Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

    The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is one of the finest choirs of men and boys in the world, known and loved by millions from its recordings, broadcasts and concert tours. A cornerstone of the great English choral tradition since the 1670s, it is recognised for its distinctive, rich and expressive sound.  The Director of Music is Andrew Nethsingha, who follows in a line of eminent predecessors, most recently Dr George Guest, Dr Christopher Robinson and Dr David Hill.

    The Choir is made up of 20 Choristers and Probationers who are educated at St John’s College School. The alto, tenor and bass parts are usually taken by 15 Choral Scholars who are students in the University, with two Organ Scholars assisting in the daily running of the Choir. Services in the College Chapel follow the Cathedral tradition of the Church of England, with Evensong six days a week during term and Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings.

    Under Andrew Nethsingha’s direction, the singers receive a unique musical education in an extremely varied breadth of repertoire, from Renaissance polyphony and Haydn masses to 20th century music. In 2011, St John’s Sinfonia was established, a professional period ensemble formed with Margaret Faultless, with which the Choir gives termly liturgical performances of Bach cantatas. Also renowned for championing contemporary music, Andrew Nethsingha has commissioned nearly 40 pieces, including works by James Burton, Michael Finnissy, John McCabe, Philip Moore, Nico Muhly, Tim Watts, James Welland and Alex Woolf.

    The Choir’s services are frequently broadcast on BBC Radio and they are also committed to engaging with a wide audience through digital innovations. St John’s was the first British choir to broadcast its services live in weekly webcasts, and in 2011 it launched SJC Live, a unique online archive for music lovers and choirmasters.

    On the concert platform, the Choir regularly performs in high-profile venues around the UK, with orchestras and ensembles including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Its busy international touring schedule includes the USA, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe.

    Over many years, the Choir has amassed an extensive, highly acclaimed discography on several labels, including Decca, EMI, Naxos and Hyperion. Their recent recordings for Chandos Records, with music spanning 500 years, have included works by Purcell, Mendelssohn, Howells, Panufnik, Messiaen and previously unrecorded motets by Lassus. Recently, a new venture has been embarked upon; the St John’s College imprint on Signum Records.  The imprint will release forthcoming recordings by the Choir, as well as young talent from the College and prominent alumni. The label’s first release, Deo, a collection of music by the contemporary composer Jonathan Harvey, has received five-star reviews in The Observer and BBC Music Magazine, and an Editor’s Choice selection in Gramophone Magazine.

  • Choral & Opera
  • Teatro alla Scala

    Teatro alla Scala was founded and built in 1776-1778 and is home to a ballet company, chorus and orchestra. It is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and many of the greatest singers, conductors, singers and dancers have appeared on its famous stage.

    During August and September 2016, Askonas Holt brought the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro alla Scala to Seoul, South Korea to be the first international performers at the new Lotte Concert Hall, which opened just days before their concerts. The Orchestra and Chorus then gave performances in Shanghai open the new season at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

    In this historic tour, Myung-Whun Chung conducted concert performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, with a full cast of international soloists.

  • Choral & Opera
  • Special Projects
  • Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Chorus

  • Choral & Opera
  • Special Projects
  • Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Chorus

    As part of the 2018 Chinese New Year celebrations, Askonas Holt is delighted to collaborate with the Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Chorus. Established in 2002 in the mountains of Southern China, Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Chorus, led by choirmaster Guangyuan Long, comprises 50 farmers of the Miao ethnic minority. No member has ever received any professional vocal training, instead absorbing the Western Baroque and bel canto singing traditions introduced by Christian missionaries in the 1930s by word of mouth over the course of generations.

    Based at the Xiaoshuijing village church, the choir has toured throughout China and has collaborated with international ensembles, including the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Since its inception, the choir, which performs in ethnic dress indigenous to this part of the Yunnan Province, has received widespread recognition across China. In addition to receiving various awards, the choir has appeared at UNESCO’s Humanity Photo Awards 2011, the Opening Ceremony of the second Nie Er Music and Chorus Week in Shanghai Grand Theatre, the Beijing Television Spring Festival Gala, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, the Jianshui Charity Concert, and made two appearances on the popular television show Mamma Mia on Shanghai Dragon TV.

    In 2018 the choir will perform internationally for the first time as part of major Chinese New Year celebrations, including concerts at New York’s Lincoln Center and the Royal Festival Hall in London.