Magnus Walker, tenor – a profile

Magnus will be singing the role of Jephtha in Handel’s oratorio Jephtha at this year’s Festival alongside soloists from London’s top conservatoires and backed by local choral societies. The concert, conducted by Paul Spicer and accompanied by Southern Pro Musica, takes place on 18th March at 7.30pm.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at the Petersfield Musical Festival this year?

This will be my first time performing a Handel oratorio that ISN’T Messiah. As much as I love singing Messiah, that is quite exciting.

What do you feel about the role/repertoire you are singing in the festival?

Jephtha is actually a much older and more experienced part that what I’m used to performing on stage. Bringing an air of authority and depth will be the main challenge for me dramatically. Musically, it’s a very beautiful role to sing. I feel my job is to sing Handel’s music as beautifully as I can without losing the dramatic intensity of the character.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I grew up singing in my Dad’s church choir, so I’d have to say both my parents and the members of that choir exerted a great influence; my teachers also, who have had a massive effect on my ability to interpret music and the roles I play. Otherwise, I’d say the two singers I learned the most from listening to growing up would be Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, the masters of style and true self-expression!

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Obviously there were many practical and emotional challenges posed by the Pandemic for all artists. It was a real challenge to keep going during those last couple of years and stay true to why I commit to a life of performing and singing!

Aside from that, performing as Tom Rakewell by Stravinsky last autumn was by far the biggest role I’ve had to deliver on stage, posing itself as a massive musical, vocal and dramatic challenge.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

For me, music has always been an outlet for self-expression and communication. Sharing this with other artists is always particularly meaningful to me.

Occasionally I find you can have strong disagreements with people musically, but working around these is also what’s part of the fun and quite often those situations teach you a lot more!

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

I love performing the works of both Britten and Schubert. I think they are two of the greatest song composers and I’ve experienced some of my most meaningful and memorable moments performing works by both of them.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

Pieces for me like Messiah, Creation and Elijah are all works I’ve performed many times now and feel very comfortable with in performance. By now I think I have a real affinity with them and very much have my own interpretations to bring along with me. I also find that evangelising in Bach’s Passions is one of the best parts of being a singer.

Which performances are you most proud of?

Last November I stepped in for a performance of Britten’s War Requiem with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra: that was a lot of fun!

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

I spent a year as a choral scholar at Gloucester cathedral. One of the best moments of that year’s Three Choirs Festival was listening to Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia on the sofa in the Organ loft.

About Magnus

Magnus Walker is in his fourth year at the Royal Academy of Music. He won First Prize in the 2019 Joan Chissell/Rex Stephens award for Schumann Lieder.

Projects at the Academy include a recital of duets by Brahms and Schumann, the Spencer Collection, and the world premiere of Mario Ferraro’s cycle Songs from a distant land with guitar. He regularly sang in the chorale for the Kohn Bach Cantata series, and sings in the ‘Bach the European’ series, including solos in the St Matthew Passion with Trevor Pinnock.

Magnus made his Three Choirs Festival soloist debut in Elgar’s The Kingdom in 2016. Concert highlights since include Mozart’s C Minor Mass (St John’s Smith Square), arias in Bach’s St John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, David Owen Norris’ Song Cycle Think Only This, and the first of a series of Schubert’s Winterreise.

Magnus was soloist in Britten’s War Requiem with the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2017. In 2018, he returned to the Three Choirs Festival to sing Lili Boulanger’s setting of Psalm 130: Du Fond de L’Abime. He has sung in the chorus for staged productions of  Semele (Royal Academy Opera, 2018) and Die Entführung auf dem Serail (2017).

Upcoming engagements include Beethoven’s Mass in C in Cadogan Hall and the first UK Performance of CPE Bach’s St Matthew Passion.