Christopher Bowen, tenor

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

After many years singing part time, I left a career in medicine to sing week in and week out. The singers and conductors that encouraged me at that time of transition were key in giving me the confidence to keep going.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Having to sing every day with no downtime between projects was a real challenge and finding ways to lose tension and to grow with my voice as it grew with me was the biggest challenge

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Britten War Requiem after the earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand. Such a profound work and a monumental occasion. We performed in an aircraft hanger because the cathedrals and concert hall were damaged.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Bach and Britten

They share a commitment to the words that they set and build it into the very fabric of the music. It is always a pleasure to understand and learn their works and then to share that story with the audience. The music they write for tenor is rewarding.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I’m from New Zealand. I miss the landscape but I love to walk in the mountains here in Europe when I get the chance. The mountains give you space to think and then you take those journeys, vistas, and friendships with you wherever you go.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

If a role or programme excites me I’ll go out of my way to do it.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

Invest money in performances at all levels. I am a particular believer in the value of community Oratorio. They provide opportunities for outreach, high quality music making, education, professional development and employment. A lot of choral societies are struggling with the impact of COVID and I would love to see them supported by funding bodies and audiences alike.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

At Cheltenham Festival it must be Jonathan Harvey’s Marahi with the BBC Singers. Getting to make gutteral bovine “noises from the animal realm” in Cheltenham College Chapel was definitely memorable.

You’re performing at this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival. Tell us what you’ll be doing….

My main contribution to Awakening Shadow is to sing Britten’s first, third and fourth Canticles. In this chamber opera, Luke Styles presents Britten’s music in the context of a journey through light and darkness.

I love the Britten canticles. Canticle One, My Beloved is Mine and I am His is a setting of words by Francis Quarles: a florid declaration of love and commitment. Canticle Three, Still Falls The Rain, is an Edith Sitwell poem contemplating the blitz and the crucifixion. Canticle Four, The Journey of the Magi sets the T S Eliot poem about the journey, faith and doubt of the Three Kings.

Britten wrote five canticles, each for a different arrangement of voices and instruments (always including his partner Peter Pears) spanning four decades between 1947 and 1974. It will be fascinating to hear them all in one performance. As Britten music becomes more abstract, Luke Style’s music solidifies and becomes palpable. Styles gives Shelley the last word – bizarrely apt at the tail of a global pandemic – “Naught may endure but mutability”

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

The respect of the performers on stage with me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A warm afternoon nap in the sun on top of a mountain.

Christopher Bowen performs in this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival which runs from 9-11 July. More information here

Christopher Bowen is a lyric tenor known for his versatility and communicative ability. An accomplished musician; he enjoys collaborations and connecting with audiences.

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