Elgar Hero Returns!
As you look down the names of soloists in our festival programme, some will be more familiar to you than others. One name in particular might jump out at you if you were at the festival in Gloucester in 2016: Magnus Walker. Then a teenage choral scholar of Gloucester Cathedral, he was given the chance of a lifetime when he stepped in at a few hours’ notice to sing the tenor solos in Edward Elgar’s The Kingdom at the opening night of the prestigious Three Choirs Festival, and this year returns to the festival as a soloist in his own right.
Magnus, then 18, was given the opportunity when James Oxley, the well-known professional soloist booked to sing the demanding role in one of Elgar’s most famous works on Saturday 23 July, lost his voice on the morning of the concert and was unable to sing. So Adrian Partington, artistic director of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival, turned to his own cathedral choir and chose one of his youngest singers to step up to the solo spot.
Of his return to the festival, Magnus said:
"It’s wonderful to be back singing at the Three Choirs Festival once again after what has been a rather busy, yet exciting, couple of years. I still haven’t really come to terms with the events of that opening night in 2016. It was such an incredible experience to sing such amazing music with one of the country’s top orchestras and such a fabulous chorus, and of course, under the baton of Adrian. My only regret is that all went by in a flash!
However, many exciting events have happened over the past couple of years thanks to that performance. The highlight for me still would be performing Britten’s War Requiem last summer with the combined forces of the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Sofia Philharmonic. Not only is this one of my favourite pieces of music, but it was also the first time the piece had been performed in the country since the Bulgarian premiere back in the early 1970s so the whole concert had a real sense of occasion and excitement about it.
The biggest part of the past two years has of course been my time at the Royal Academy of Music. I have now just finished my second year of a four-year undergraduate course and I am currently studying under the tutelage of Richard Berkeley-Steele, who has not only helped me to develop as a singer, but also provides a huge amount of inspiration. We are really encouraged to push ourselves at the Academy to be the best musicians we can be and there is so much I have already learned that I shall certainly hold on to throughout my career. We are also given many exciting opportunities as students. Most recently we got to sing Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with the Philharmonia orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen in both Paris and the Royal Festival Hall. My most challenging experience so far would have to be performing the world premiere of a new song cycle for tenor and guitar by the Brazilian composer Mario Ferraro. This was an amazing piece to work on and perform but took many hours of learning and rehearsal. I still hope to perform it again soon though!
It’s wonderful to be back at the festival singing some amazing music. It’s also great to have a chance to experience my first Hereford Three Choirs!"
Magnus will be singing the tenor solo in Symphony of Psalms on Friday 3 August at 7.45 pm in Hereford Cathedral. Please click here for more information about the concert.