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Vocal Coach & Singing Teacher
With a career as an international solo concert singer and consort vocalist, voice teacher, vocal adjudicator and conference presenter, Martin Elliott now focuses more on using his experience for the benefit of voice students, having himself worked extensively across the UK, mainland Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Born in London as a national of both Britain and New Zealand, he built a solo career specializing in the performance of oratorio, baroque and electro-acoustic music and the teaching of the vocal art. Educated as a chorister of Westminster Abbey, a music scholar at King’s School, Canterbury and a choral scholar at Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained an honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Martin continued his vocal studies as a postgraduate scholar on the opera course at the London Guildhall School of Music. He subsequently studied with the late Erich Vietheer and then with the renowned Wagnerian bass-baritone, Norman Bailey.
Making his London solo debut with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in Bellini’s opera “I Puritani”, Martin has since sung in the major concert halls of both hemispheres, performing a wide range of repertoire for a vast number of arts organizations.
His career began with much early and contemporary music, working in nearly every European country and most of its major concert halls, from Norway’s Arctic Northern Lights Festival to Acco’s Festival of Voice in Israel. This included a ten-year period with the electro-acoustic ensemble Singcircle, renowned for their performances of Stockhausen’s Stimmung, singing at the BBC Proms, the World Music Days in Oslo, while making radio and CD recordings, and performing with such groups as the late Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble Contemporain in Paris.
In the 1980’s Martin spent 3 years as vocal soloist with the Ballet Rambert, working with the choreographers Christopher Bruce and Richard Alston, singing Weill’s “Mahagonny Songspiel” and “Berlin Requiem”, Mozart’s “6 Nocturnes” for 3 singers and basset-horns, and Holst Part-Songs in theatres throughout the UK and also for BBC TV’S ballet “The Cruel Garden”.
These early years saw him as a regular singer with ensembles that are now household names such as The Sixteen, The Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, and the Schutz Choir. He also sang with the majority of London’s other professional ensembles while being a Permanent Deputy at St Paul’s Cathedral, becoming Director of the Wren Singers of London based at the Cathedral. He developed this group further by taking it outside of its cathedral remit to places where no choir was available, including recording the music for the National Theatre’s production of St. Joan, and performing broadcast Evensongs for the BBC in Wren’s City churches.
During this time, Martin appeared on numerous BBC Radio and Television programmes including a role in BBC TV’s “By the Sword Divided”. He featured as soloist in BBC Radio’s “Octave of the Nativity” performing reconstructed Masses from around the world for Christmas time, and also took part in Graham Johnson’s Songmakers’ Almanac’s “Schubertiad” in the Wigmore Hall, London.
In 1992 he founded the Wren Baroque Soloists, with first recordings of Antonio Caldara’s “Madrigals and Cantatas” for Unicorn Kanchana, and later releasing music by Martin Peerson for Collins Classics. Specialising in music by these composers, along with Jeffreys, Purcell, Handel and Bach, the ensemble toured Europe from Norway to Turkey, and visited the USA and Canada twice, making their US debut at the prestigious Friends of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, an institution where no other vocal group had performed before.
In 1995 he started the Wren Baroque orchestra with its debut at London’s Barbican Hall, and then in the Brighton Festival, with performances of Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” and “St John Passion” in Novello’s new English edition by Neil Jenkins, with Neil as Evangelist and Martin as Christ.
Martin created the St Paul’s Experience in 1995 and 1996 at St Paul’s Cathedral, drawing singers, organists and music directors from all over the world in the first ever choral and organ course of its kind at this esteemed establishment. Most recently he has conducted the chapel choir of the Royal Academy, Sandhurst in their regular Sunday worship, and on occasion singing with them too, and is also guest conductor and vocalist with the Cathedral Singers of Ontario (Director Ian Sadler), leading summer and New Year worship in England’s major cathedrals.
His recitals have often been in support of the Royal Society of Musicians, a charity helping musicians and their families suffering hardship through illness, infirmity and bereavement, of which Martin has been a member since 1980 and served as a Court of Assistant. He has created his own unusual concert programmes with Canadian musicians, one for 2 basses and another called “Tenor and Baritone”, as well as touring his own solo recital programme “O for Oratorio” in Canada and New Zealand.
With this background, which has included a variety of Head of Voice and Singing Teacher posts in the south of England, Martin has travelled the world giving choral and vocal masterclasses, while opening his one-to-one teaching to students across the continents. He now spends time supporting vocal students in a variety of disciplines and genres. He adjudicated the 1999 and 2007 Christchurch (NZ) Competitive Vocal Festival and in 2002 was invited as one of only two international guest panellists (the other being the highly esteemed Jo Estill) for the annual conference of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (ANATS) in Melbourne presenting a paper and demonstration lecture “The Value of Oratorio to an Operatic Career”, since published in the ANATS journal “The Voice”.
Martin’s teaching further extended to running an annual course “Inspiration for Singers” in Sillico, Tuscany, an idyllic retreat in the mountains north of Lucca, which also successfully transferred to La Maison Verte in Roujan, France.
This new century has seen Martin give oratorio debuts in Australia for the Sydney Philharmonia (Bach’s B minor Mass), in New Zealand with the Christchurch City Choir (St. Matthew Passion), and the Auckland Choral Society (Messiah), and then in Canada at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre (Bach’s Christmas Oratorio).
Oratorio concerts in the last decade have included Mozart’s “Requiem” with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Winchester Cathedral, England, conductor David Hill, and a live broadcast for National Radio of Handel’s “Messiah” in Wellington, New Zealand, along with Verdi’s “Requiem” and Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” for the 100th anniversary of the Bach Elgar choir in Ontario, and also Mozart’s “Requiem”, Handel’s “Dettingen Te Deum”, V. Williams’ “5 Mystical Songs” and Rutter’s “Mass for the Children” in Auckland, New Zealand. Further concerts have included Brahms’ “German Requiem” in Toronto and Stratford, Ontario, and Faure’s “Requiem” in his home cathedral of Chichester.
“Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs saw Martin Elliott approaching George Herbert's poetry with rare intelligence and attention to phrasing." NZ Herald - 2006
“Martin Elliott’s lifetime of voice training, beginning at Westminster Abbey, was evident in his controlled and stately performance, exhibiting the true grandeur of the baritone voice.” Stratford Ontario Times - 2003
“Martin Elliott as Christ sang with particular beauty of tone" Barbican Hall - Bach's St. Matthew Passion - Church Times - 1999
“Martin Elliott, ensemble director, enjoyed grasping all the opportunities offered by a grand bass solo". - Wren Baroque Soloists, UEA, Eastern Daily Press 1997
“With pleasing timbre and immaculate style and diction, nothing could take away from a spirited performance from a voice that was equally capable of power and passion” Recital Otago University, Christchurch, NZ – The Press 1996