Dame Janet Baker CH, DBE, FRSA
Janet Baker’s first appearance as a soloist with The Bach Choir was in 1960, in a programme which paired the Mozart Requiem with Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast and was notable in being the first conducted by the Choir’s then Musical Director, David Willcocks. She was soon to become a regular soloist at Bach Choir concerts, particularly the Choir’s annual St Matthew Passion performances. She became a Vice President of The Bach Choir in 1983.
Best known for her performances of British music, especially that of her compatriot Benjamin Britten, Janet Baker was also a fine performer of art song, sacred music, and Classical and pre-Classical opera. Her repertoire, as well as her background, frequently overlapped that of her great predecessor Kathleen Ferrier, and her performances in Britain and abroad led to international renown.
In 1956, Janet Baker won second prize in the Kathleen Ferrier Competition and in 1962 she first sang with the English Opera Group, as Polly in Benjamin Britten’s famous production of The Beggar’s Opera at Aldeburgh. She later credited the leading spirits of that group, Britten and tenor Peter Pears, with giving the ensemble and its singers the highest possible standards, as well as raising the reputation of British singers internationally.
As her operatic career progressed, Janet Baker focused on pre-Classical and Classical works whilst also performing Romantic and twentieth-century roles. Much of her recital repertoire was drawn from the works of Fauré, Schumann, Schubert, Duparc, Haydn, and Mahler, and the British masters such as Purcell and Elgar; however, she also took special pleasure in bringing the works of lesser-known composers to public attention. In 1982, she gave her farewell performances as Orfeo in London and at Glyndebourne.
James Bowman CBE
James Bowman last performed as a soloist with The Bach Choir in the 2002 St Matthew Passion. He became a Vice President in 2006.
One of the world’s leading countertenors for many years, James Bowman’s career spans opera, oratorio, contemporary music and solo recitals. He began singing as a chorister at Ely Cathedral and later went to New College, Oxford, where he was a member of the chapel choir. In 1967 he was invited by Benjamin Britten to give his London debut at the opening concert of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and he was soon in demand on both the opera stage and the concert platform, appearing with all the major opera companies.
James Bowman’s concert career is equally wide-ranging; in Europe he is well known as a recitalist, and has a large following. In 1992 the French government honoured him with admission to L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and he was awarded the Medal of Honour of the city of Paris in recognition of his long-standing contribution to the musical life of the city. He has given the world premieres of many significant works by Britten, Tippett, Maxwell Davies and others and has a wide ranging discography of over 180 recordings. He was appointed a CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours and became an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford in 1998.
Dame Felicity Lott DBE, FRAM, FRCM
Felicity Lott has performed as a soloist with The Bach Choir on many occasions, notably in the Choir’s annual St Matthew Passion concerts. Her final appearance with the Choir was in 1998, when Sir David Willcocks conducted his last St Matthew Passion after 38 years as Musical Director. She became a Vice President in 2006.
Born in Cheltenham into a family of amateur musicians, Felicity Lott learnt piano, violin and singing from an early age. After taking a degree in French and Latin, she obtained an Associated Board scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied for four years, leaving in 1973 with the Principal’s Prize.
Felicity Lott made her debut at the English National Opera in 1975 as Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, and in the following year began her long relationship with Glyndebourne. Since then she has appeared at all the great opera houses of the world with many of the world’s leading conductors.
More recently, Felicity has shown her affection for operetta. In 1993 she sang the title role in Lehar’s Merry Widow with Glyndebourne Festival Opera on a recording for EMI. Her performance as Hélène in Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène at the Châtelet in Paris brought her a great success in 2000 and in the 2004-2005 season Felicity appeared with the same team as Offenbach’s La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein.
Felicity is well known as a concert artist, working with all the great conductors and orchestras. She is an experienced recitalist after many years of singing with Graham Johnson, whom she met when they were students at the Royal Academy of Music. She is a founder member of Graham Johnson’s Songmakers’ Almanac.
In 1990 Felicity Lott was made a CBE and in 1996 she was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire.
Sam Gordon Clark CBE Hon FRAM
Singing has been a part of Sam Gordon Clark’s life since his early youth. His first experience of big choirs was when, at the age of 13, he was dragooned into singing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius as a treble in Winchester Cathedral, with minimal rehearsal (he still finds the Demons’ Chorus testing!)
Born in 1943, he was educated at Winchester and Lyon University, and then started a career in the wine trade. He joined St Paul’s Knightsbridge Festival Choir, and sang under Dick Latham for ten years while convinced that he would never be good enough to join The Bach Choir. However, in 1973 he summoned the courage to audition for David Willcocks and was amazed to be admitted. He served as a trustee of The Bach Choir from 1979 to 1985, and again, on his appointment as chairman, from 2007 to 2013, when after forty years as a singing member, he decided to retire, both from the chair and, conscious of the decreasing age and increasing competence of those around him, from the Choir. Among his most memorable concerts, he remembers with pride singing the B Minor Mass and Messiah on, respectively, the 300th birthdays of J S Bach and Handel in 1985.
His time in the wine trade lasted until 1997, (although he maintains a strong interest as a consumer), when he made a career change and moved into arts management as Chief Executive of the Henley Festival, from which he retired in 2009.
Outside work, he served on the governing body of the Royal Academy of Music from 1980 to 1999, and was chairman of the Early Opera Company from 2002 to 2007. For twenty-nine years he chaired the trustees of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, and their charity Adopt a School, dedicated to improving nutrition in primary schools.
Sam Gordon Clark was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music in 1991, and a CBE in the 2011 New Year’s honours. He was appointed a Vice President of The Bach Choir on his retirement from the chair in 2013, and in 2018 became President of the 1876 Society, the Choir’s legacy campaign.