Baritone George Robarts first sang with Oxford Bach Soloists in January 2015 during his second year at Oxford. Since then he has performed regularly as a soloist and chorus member. We find our more about his career as a singer…
Tell us a bit about yourself, your training and career to date.
I have recently graduated from New College, Oxford, where I studied German and Italian and was an Academical Clerk in the choir. I was lucky enough to sing under both Edward Higginbottom and Robert Quinney during my time there, and thoroughly enjoyed learning from their different stylistic approaches to wonderful music. During my third year I studied at the Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini in Florence for six months and played Orfeo in scenes from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. As a soloist, I sang the title role in three student operas at Oxford, and my long-term ambition is to end up on the opera stage.
What other musical ensembles are you involved with?
I have sung with the Blenheim Singers on tours of Germany and Malta in recent years and sang with Schola Cantorum of Oxford during my final year at university. I am also a shameless a cappella addict – I used to sing with Out of the Blue, featuring in the infamous Shakira medley music video that went viral in summer 2014, and also directed New College Choir’s close harmony group, the New Men.
Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date.
Last Easter, I sang Pilatus in the St John Passion with New College at St Bart’s, New York – the venue was unforgettable as well as the role, which I hope to revisit in the future! Another highlight was the Fauré Requiem solos in the Basilica di Santo Spirito, Florence, with the Conservatorio choir and orchestra. But the most fun I’ve had in performance has to be playing Figaro in Oxford last winter alongside brilliant OBS regulars Elspeth Piggott and Aileen Thomson (Susanna and the Countess respectively) – nothing beats teaming up with a couple of pals onstage and careering through the Act Two finale as the set begins to fall apart around you.
What do you see as the value of ensembles like Oxford Bach Soloists to emerging younger musicians?
OBS provides an invaluable opportunity for solo exposure right from the start. While it can be difficult to “work your way up” through other ensembles in order to earn the top opportunities available, OBS ensures that all its performers are highly valued members of the team – I love the way it makes use of the individual skills available and makes sure of bringing them all to the fore.
Singing with the ensemble has been hugely beneficial for me, increasing my confidence as a soloist early on through regular experience of performing beautiful and difficult music. I was delighted to be invited to sing my first full solo cantata in December 2017. Performing it with OBS is a huge bonus: the wonderfully encouraging conductor and fantastic instrumentalists (not to mention the singers themselves!) form the perfect environment to make the most of such an opportunity.