Noted for her “velvety richness” (The Independent) & “commanding” tone (Seen and Heard International), Cumbrian contralto Jess Dandy is rapidly making a name for herself as one of the UK’s most promising young singers.
This season saw her debuts as alto soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall, New York; Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, & Harris Theater, Chicago. All formed part of a planned international tour with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Orchestre révolutionnaire et romantique, and the Monteverdi Choir.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of this tour & the remainder of Jess’s work for the season has been cancelled.
The Beethoven series was to end with Barbican Hall, London & Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall, Athens. Jess was also to return to Carnegie Hall & Barbican Hall as part of another international tour: this time with Harry Bicket & The English Concert, playing Eduige in Handel’s Rodelinda, which would have also seen her sing at Baluarte, Pamplona; Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; Theater an der Wien, Austria; LA Opera & Princeton’s McCarter Center, as well as recording the role.
Easter would also have been a hugely busy time. The Bach Passions of course were to be the central feature: St Matthew Passions with Merton College Choir & Florilegium under Benjamin Nicholas in Oxford & at St John’s Smith Square, followed by performances with the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales under John Butt at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea & St David’s Hall, Cardiff, the latter of which was to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3; St John with the Academy of Ancient Music, Daniel Hyde & his Choir of King’s College, Cambridge in their glorious chapel.
Jess’s discography includes a critically acclaimed recording as Micah in Handel Samson with the Dunedin Consort & John Butt, & a world premiere of the Mass Via Victrixby Stanford with the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales under Adrian Partington.
Past concert highlights include a European tour of St John Passion with Les Arts florissants & William Christie, Handel Parnasso in festa (Calliope) with the London Handel Orchestra under Adrian Partington at Wigmore Hall, and Mozart Requiem with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge & the late Sir Stephen Cleobury.
Jess is a regular member of the Dunedin Consort, enjoying her Edinburgh Festival debut with them, and regularly taking part in performances led by John Butt, Trevor Pinnock & Kristian Bezuidenhout at The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Oslo Cathedral, Wigmore Hall, Händel-Festspiele Halle & the Boston Early Music Festival, to name but a few.
She also works regularly with Stephen Layton: singing Bach St John Passion with the Tasmanian Symphony & Adelaide Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, as well as Messiah at St David’s Hall with BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales.
Upcoming oratorio engagements include her Ireland debut with the Irish Baroque Orchestra under Peter Whelan & the Ulster Radio Orchestra, as well as singing her first Christmas Oratorio with the Mozarteum Orchestra under Matthew Halls in Salzburg, before returning to the UK for a Dunedin Consort Messiah tour of Scotland.
Jess is also expanding her repertoire into the larger scale Romantic orchestral works of Berlioz & Mahler. 2019 saw her sing Berlioz “Le Spectre de la rose” under Douglas Boyd & the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast from Saffron Walden. Next year, she appears as alto soloist in Mahler Resurrection Symphony with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Toronto, Canada & the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Ed Gardner at Symphony Hall.
A keen recitalist, Jess enjoys particularly fruitful partnerships with Dylan Perez, Martin Roscoe & Sholto Kynoch, which have taken her to Wigmore Hall, Oxford Lieder Festival, Barbican Hall, LIFE Victoria & Brantwood, Coniston. She enjoys devising imaginative programmes, which are often site specific & multi-disciplinary: incorporating poetry, visual art, philosophy & history into an intriguing narrative, inviting listeners to become active participants in these musical adventures. She is also a “Stipendiatin” of the Heidelberger Frühling Akademie led by Thomas Hampson & a Britten-Pears Young Artist.
Her opera highlights include singing Dido at the Ryedale Festival 2019, two Royal Opera House workshops on new works by Soumik Datta/Glynn Maxwell, and Philip Venables 4.48 Psychosis. She also covered the role of the Messenger and was a member of the ensemble in the ROH/Roundhouse production of Monteverdi Orfeo with director Michael Boyd and conductor Christopher Moulds, and played the multi-part contralto role in Finnegan Downie Dear/Jack Furness’ production of Benjamin Into the Little Hill for Shadwell Opera. Most recently, she performed in the première & reprisal of Alex Mills’ Dear Marie Stopes at the Tête-a-Tête Opera Festival & at King’s Place Venus Unwrapped Festival. She enjoys an exciting artistic relationship with Alex, & looks forward to workshopping his upcoming second opera, Herculineat Snape Maltings, as well as devising a new Schubert Soundscape project.
Competition highlights include winning the London Bach Society Prize 2017 & the Oxford Lieder Young Artist Platform 2018 with her duo partner, Dylan Perez.
Jess is co-founder & director of SongPath. SongPath is a mental health initiative designed to provide participants with nourishing ways of connecting through walking, talking & music-making on imaginatively curated trails in the beautiful landscapes of South Cumbria & beyond. The initiative also raises funds for two local branches of the mental health charity Mind. For more information, as well as the current status of the 2020 event & online COVID-19 specific mental health provision, see songpath.co.uk.
She trained at Trinity College, Cambridge (French & German), the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon & Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she held a fellowship & graduated with distinction. She currently studies with Gary Coward.
© Jess Dandy