Soloists

Performing in our current season
Tamsin Coombs
Penelope Martin Smith

Penelope Martin Smith

Soprano

Penelope studied Music at Goldsmith’s College, London University,  graduating with a B.Mus and following that gained a Licentiate Diploma in Singing Performance at the Guildhall School of Music.

Her solo repertoire is extensive and varied and she has performed many operatic roles and oratorios as well as being a regular song recitalist.  Recent solo performances include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion, Tippett’s “A Child of Our Time”,  Verdi’s, Mozart’s and Brahms’ Requiems, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah and a solo recital series with pianist  David Rees-Williams.  Penelope is Vocal Director of the renowned Baroque female group Schola Pietatis. Antonio Vivaldi whose research into Vivaldi’s choir and orchestra at the Pieta in Venice has resulted in award winning television documentaries. In 2015 they featured with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a live broadcast from St. John’s Smith Square on Radio 3.  In that programme she sang Vivaldi’s famous solo cantata  ‘Nulla in mundo pax sincera’.  She sings in professional consorts and small ensembles too, mostly ad hoc or as a last minute deputy.

In 2008 Penelope founded Canterbury Cathedral Garden Opera with Canterbury Cathedral Master of the Choristers David Flood:  she has directed several of the operas and sung principal roles in all of them. The current production for is  “La Traviata” with Penelope singing the title role.  She has also recorded several commercial CD’s.

Penelope has a private singing teaching practice as well as teaching singing at the King’s School and St. Edmund’s School, Canterbury: at the latter she teaches Canterbury Cathedral Choristers.  She also directs St. Edmund’s School Junior Choir and has founded and directed adult and children’s choirs in the past.  Having been Associate Director of Oxford Youth Choirs and founding director of Oxford Boys Choir between 1992 and 2009 Penelope has this year returned to both of those posts.

 

Kristin Finnigan

Kristin Finnigan

Contralto

Kristin Finnigan graduated with honours from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, going on to complete the advanced postgraduate course at Trinity College of Music, supported by the Henry Rennoldson-Crawford Scholarship, where she won the Elizabeth Schumann lieder prize and Paul Simm Opera Prize. She continues her vocal studies with Gavin Carr.

During her time at the RSAMD she performed as a soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Bartók’s Three Village Scenes and sang Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While at Trinity she was lucky enough to take part in a mentoring scheme between Trinity and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and sing in a masterclass with Teresa Berganza. She was accepted onto the Britten-Pears Lieder Course at the Aldeburgh Festival with German baritone Christian Gerhaher and accompanist Gerold Huber and subsequently performed a concert series in Germany.

Highlights in recent seasons include Kate Cassidy in Richard Wargo’s Losers for Wexford Festival Opera; Jacqueline Sherwood in Kiss Me, Figaro!, a new commission for Merry Opera, written and directed by John Ramster and her company debut with Opera della Luna as the Duchess of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers. Kristin recently made her debut with Opera North covering Flosshilde in Der Ring des Nibelungen.

 

Greg Tassell

Greg Tassell

Tenor

Greg was brought up on a hop farm near Tunbridge Wells in Kent and was a chorister at Durham Cathedral. He studied music at Exeter University, becoming a choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral under Andrew Millington. After a two-year stint working at a publishing company in London, Greg won a place on the post graduate diploma course at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied under David Lowe and Ryland Davies. Whilst at the RAM he reached the finals of both the London Handel Competition & London Bach Prize and was runner-up at the inaugural John Kerr Award for Early English Song.

On the opera stage, Greg has performed chorus and various small roles with English Touring Opera, being the first to ever play the role of Badger in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr Fox. He was also part of ETO’s award-winning education programme, presenting opera to special needs children. Greg has since performed with Opera a la Carte and more recently, with Nova Music, creating the role of ‘David’ in Charlotte Bray’s contemporary three person opera, ‘Entanglement’.

Greg is much in demand as a soloist on the oratorio platform. Recent notable engagements have included the Mozart Requiem and the Monteverdi Vespers at Cadogan Hall, Britten’s St Nicolas and Macmillan’s Gloria in Coventry Cathedral and the Evangelist in Bach’s St John Passion at St Martin in the Fields and Eton School. Greg has become particularly well known for performing the role of the roasting swan in Carmina Burana in full costume! In 2017 Greg was honoured to be one of the chosen soloists at the Presteigne Festival, performing Walton’s rarely heard “Anon in Love” and Cecilia Macdowell’s “In some corner of a foreign field” with full orchestra, to critical acclaim.

Aside from his solo performances, Greg is a founder member of professional chamber choir Sonoro (www.sonoromusic.com) and vocal quartet Twilight ensemble. He also enjoys teaching singing at various schools in Kent, including Eltham College, St Olaves’ in Orpington and Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone.

 

Jon Williams

Jon Williams

Baritone

Jon Williams (Bass-Baritone) was born in the North East and grew up in Manchester. He holds two music degrees from Durham University where he was a Choral Scholar in the Choir of Durham Cathedral and Director of Durham University Chamber Choir. Jon has lived in Kent for rather more years than he cares to remember, during which time he has been a Lay Clerk at both Rochester Cathedral and at Canterbury Cathedral, where he currently sings on a daily basis. As well as appearing regularly as a soloist with choirs and choral societies across the South East, Jon has participated in many commercial CD recordings, has broadcast regularly on radio and TV (most recently in David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy for BBC2 and Canterbury Cathedral for BBC1) mainly in the UK but also abroad and has performed in concerts and festivals throughout the UK, Northern Europe, the USA and Canada. In recent years, Jon has collaborated with Canterbury Cathedral colleagues Dr David Flood and Chris Price (‘Good GNUs’) in highly acclaimed concerts featuring humorous songs by Flanders and Swann and others. He is also a regular member of the ensemble Cantuar who have revived, in concert and recordings, the music and mayhem of the celebrated Canterbury Catch Club.

Jon is a qualified classroom teacher and has worked in a number of Kent schools including as Director of Music at Simon Langton Girls’ School in Canterbury and Head of Music at Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich where he was also a Governor. He is a pianist, organist and jazz enthusiast and has enjoyed cycling for charitable causes, including riding from Canterbury to Rome in 2007. If all that wasn’t enough, Jon is currently completing a PhD at Canterbury Christ Church University with Dr Robert Rawson and Dr David Allinson specialising in English bass singing of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.