An interview with tenor Derek Chester, who will appear with the Dallas Bach Society Wednesday, 9 December at the Meyerson.
Thank you for agreeing to speak about yourself your your role as soloist with the Dallas Bach Society during our performance of Handel’s Messiah. Can you tell me about your educational and professional background? Who was an important influence in your musical career?
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Georgia where he studied with Gregory Broughton and my Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance of Oratorio, Early Music, Song, and Chamber Music on full scholarship from the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music as a student of tenor James Taylor. As a Fulbright Scholar, I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Germany working as a freelance musician and furthering his training with acclaimed German tenor Christoph Prégardien and conductor Helmuth Rilling. I completed my Doctorate in Musical Arts in Voice Performance specializing in Opera Studies from the University of North Texas studying under Jennifer Lane I wrote my dissertation on the early education and juvenilia vocal works of American composer Samuel Barber. All of my teachers and conductors were extremely important influences in my life. To name a few, the voice teachers listed above, conductors Simon Carrington and Yale, Mitos Andaya and Allen Crowell at UGA, Jeffrey Thomas of the American Bach Soloists, and Helmuth Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival and Bach Academy Stuttgart.
What do you do to prepare for 3 hour concerts?
Nap, over-hydrate (8 hours in advance), and stuff my pockets full of lozenges to keep from drying out.
What about early music appeals to you as a musician?
I’ve always gravitated toward early music. I’ve been a Bach fan for as along as I can remember. I fell in love with his counterpoint and a very early age listening to cassettes my brother would bring home from the thrift store. I would lay in bed listening to a Bach fugue, picking out one line and singing it in my mind. Then I would rewind the tape and do it again with a different line. In my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to have teachers that realized I had a real penchant for performing this type of music and guided me in that direction.
Have you sung in the Meyerson as a soloist?
This will be my fourth time on the Meyerson stage as a soloist. It’s one of my favorite concert halls in the world.
What repertoire do you prefer to sing? What is it about it that transfixes you?
Early 17th century rep one-on-a-part. The madrigals are so gratifying–especially Monteverdi’s. There is something so tremendous about his treatment of the non-chord-tone, whether it is the appoggiatura gesture, or the passing tone.
I am also finding myself more and more drawn to French repertoire these days. I love the melodies of the 19th and 20th century. There is a certain elegance and understated quality to this rep that really grips me.
Any special recordings to enjoy of Handel?
Enjoying Renee Jacobs recording of Rinaldo right now. Nothing at all for the tenor… but those Almirena arias are spectacular.
What should audiences look out for in this production?
It is a real treat to perform this piece with this ensemble. The textures are always crystal clear and the tempi and pacing is ideal. It’s clear to me after performing this work several times with James Richman that he profoundly understands this work. Handel was a fantastic dramatist, and there is a certain dramatic unfolding to his Messiah that Richman just naturally allows to happen. It just feels right.
Thanks for your time!