Mulroy’s Mass appeal

British tenor Nicholas Mulroy returns to join Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra in production of Bach’s Mass in B Minor on period instruments.

March 13, 2011 21:53
4 minute read.
British tenor Nicholas Mulroy

British tenor Nicholas Mulroy 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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When it comes to plain old grandeur, classical works do not come much bigger than J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor. As it is such a well-known and beloved work it is probably a good idea to offer your audience some added value and the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra (JBO), under the baton of English conductor Andrew Parrott, will provide just that.

The JBO is performing the work this evening (9 p.m.) at the Jerusalem Theater, following a well-received rendition at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv last night, on period instruments. This is the first time the B Minor Mass has been performed on period instruments in this country.

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British tenor Nicholas Mulroy is certainly delighted with the JBO’s choice of instruments, and says that it offers an intriguing angle on how he approaches the job in hand.

“When the ensemble uses period instruments it makes a difference,” he observes.

“It makes for a slightly lower pitch and a different sound and, as a singer, you tailor your sound to the lighter more transparent sound the period instruments make.”

33 year old Liverpool-born Mulroy has performed the B Minor Mass several times over the years, including with the Staatskapelle Dresden ensemble of Germany.

“They are a very Mahler-style ensemble and have a very different sound,” he adds.

“The mass is one of the greatest works ever written and it is very exciting to perform it with different instruments and with orchestras with a different approach. When you practice before a performance of a work which you know will be played with, for example, period instruments you prepare yourself, mentally and vocally, accordingly.”

When Mulroy was a youngster, growing up in Liverpool, there was a chance that he may eke out a living in an entirely different area of music, one which perhaps suits the English city’s more recent musical history better than works from the baroque period.

“I was actually a bit of a rocker when I was at school,” he says, “and I sang in a Doors tribute band.” But he was always involved in non-commercial music too, including having a berth in the choir at the Liverpool Cathedral.

Mind you, nature did get in the way of his vocal progress temporarily.

“I stopped singing for a few years when my voice broke,” says the tenor, “and I played piano and oboe.”

Mulroy resumed his singing endeavor at Cambridge University but says his instrumental hiatus informs his vocal work.

“I played both instruments, I must say, with limited success but with great enthusiasm. Obviously, being familiar with how different instruments work, especially the piano, helps you understand the role of the instrumentalist, and that helps my work as a singer.”

OVER THE last decade or so Mulroy has accumulated a wealth of experience across a wide swath of works, from baroque works to far more modern pieces, by the likes of late 19th centuryearly 20th century Czech composer Leos Janacek, and various operatic roles. He has worked with numerous ensembles, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, English Chamber Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic, and under top conductors such as Sir Colin Davis and Nicholas Kraemer.

Mulroy says it helps to have Parrott at the helm when approaching a work of the magnitude of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. “You try your best to the get to the heart of the work you are performing, and to understand the composer’s intentions. Andrew gets so close to the mind of the composer. There is great authenticity in everything Andrew does.”

Mind you, even having period instruments and a conductor, like Parrott, who is so steeped in the spirit and works of the baroque era, at the end of the day it is what each player and each singer brings with them to the performance. Mulroy says that he, and his fellow vocalists in the B Minor Mass have to bring their technical skills and own personal and cultural baggage to the job.

In addition to Mulroy, the vocal element of the work will be covered by sopranos Claire Meghnagi, Revital Raviv, Avigail Gurtler and Carmit Natan, mezzosoprano Petra Noskaiova from Austria, alto Avital Deri, tenor David Nortman, baritone Yair Polishook and bass-baritone Oded Reich.

“For me the main thing is the authenticity you bring with you, that you should do whatever feels true for you. You can’t try to be someone else, you have to work through your own filter. What I like about the music is getting my hands dirty and really getting involved myself.”

The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra will perform J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor at the Henry Crown Auditorium, Jerusalem Theater this evening at 9 p.m. For tickets and more information: Bimot - 8 Shamai Street, Jerusalem 02-6237000 and the Jerusalem Theatre - 02-5605755

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