In the lead-up to Gloriana’s twentieth-anniversary performance of JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor we take some time out to profile our team of soloists.
Profile: Jennifer Cook
Jennifer Cook graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Music/Commerce double degree, studying voice with Rosamund Illing.
Cook has a passion for Early Music and studied historical performance practice at the University’s Early Music Studio through ensemble singing, opera projects, baroque ensemble, viol consort and the art of gesture.
Cook performs regularly as a soloist, including highlight performances with Australian Chamber Orchestra The Crowd, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra for the Celestial Vivaldi series, the world premiere of Gabriel Jackson’s To the Field of Stars with the MSO Chorus, intimate programmes of renaissance music with La Compañia, Monteverdi’s Vespers 1610 and Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with the Consort of Melbourne, the role of Dafne in Peri’s Euridice for the Woodend Winter Arts Festival, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas for Lyric Opera of Melbourne and The Queen in the Medieval Play of Daniel with Schola Cantorum.
Cook is also an avid choral singer and has been a core member of The Consort of Melbourne since 2009, as well as performing widely with other vocal ensembles across Victoria over the past 10 years. She held the position of Senior Choral Scholar with The Choir of Newman College from 2008-2010.
The Three Questions
What does Bach’s music mean to you personally?
I have liked Bach’s music since school – my first instrument was classical guitar and I loved playing the prelude from ‘cello suite #1. However, I didn’t fall in love until I started singing lessons and my teacher gave me “Mein gläubiges Herze” from Cantata 68. I was totally and completely hooked – it was like a searing light in my brain. I couldn’t believe that music could engross me so completely and I started learning all the soprano arias from the Passions & Oratorios. I was a kid in a candy store!
What do you think makes Bach’s music so universal in its appeal?
People who say they know nothing about classical music will still recognise a piece of Bach – they just don’t know it! You just have to hum a few bars of “Jesu, Joy”, “Sheep may safely graze” or the toccata and fugue in B minor and there is instant recognition.
Also, Bach’s output is staggering and endlessly inventive. I am never bored singing JS – and I think that is really saying something! I do have a “Bach-et list” (bucket list) and I am very happy to be ticking off the B minor mass with Gloriana this week!
Tell us about the solo/s you are singing in the B minor mass. What can you share with us about these solos?
Matthew Thomson has already covered the Soprano/Tenor duet very well, so I want to mention the Soprano/Alto duets. Firstly, what a treat to be performing with Sally-Anne Russell – someone I first heard and admired on the Bach arias and duets CD (with Sara Macliver).
Sally-Anne and I will perform the “Christe eleison” section of the Kyrie and “Et in unum Dominum” section of the Credo. They are both extremely recognisable and unbelievably catchy movements! I think it is a great challenge performing these duets – firstly they are very well-known so you must make the performance your own so that it is personal and fresh to an experienced Bach audience. Secondly, with a duet you must be careful not to muddy Bach’s immaculate writing and counterpoint and know when your line is to come to the fore, blend, or sit back and support the other voice.
Gloriana will be performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on Friday 13 June at 8 pm. Tickets are available at the door.