X Factor Star in Yeovil Concert
X Factor star Jonathan Ansell will be joining a special performance in Yeovil of an internationally acclaimed oratorio, by local composer Martin Emslie. The G4 and Les Musicals tenor will be one of three world class soloists taking part in the event at Westlands on 16th April 2023. He will be joined by Castle Cary based mezzo soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons, who recently performed at the Royal Opera House, and bass baritone John Savournin of the English National Opera.
The show will mark the 10th anniversary of the world premier of “Omega and Alpha”, which was first staged at Wells Cathedral in 2013. The oratorio is a retelling of the Easter Passion story, in a fusion of sacred and theatrical music. Since the premiere, it has been performed nationwide to critical acclaim. The piece was written by the highly regarded classical music director Martin Emslie, of Castle Cary, who will be conducting on the night with a 60 member choir.
Jonathan Ansell will sing the role of Jesus in the oratorio. He shot to fame on the first ever series of the X-Factor in 2004 where he, as part of pop opera group G4, came second and went on to top the charts with three albums and four sell out tours. He is one of the UK's best known tenors and has sold more than two million albums. Jonathan starred in the popular ‘Les Musicals’ tour in 2022 with Britain’s Got Talent Winner Jai McDowall.
He says: “I hope everyone will come and enjoy this brilliant work when it is performed live in Yeovil. I am delighted to be back with this music 10 years on since we premiered it at Wells Cathedral.”
Composer Martin Emslie says: “This is a very special anniversary celebration for me, for so many reasons. The original performance at Wells Cathedral had the most incredible reception, it led to Omega and Alpha being performed widely and translated into German and Spanish. Choirs are preparing to perform the work in countries as far away as India, Cuba, Germany, Mexico, and Venezuela.
“It will be wonderful to perform my oratorio again on my ‘home turf’ and I am honoured that Jonathan, Marta and John have agreed to take part. They are all such huge stars on the opera circuit, so it is quite an achievement to get them together on one night! I must also mention my choir in Castle Cary who have been rehearsing every week for this - it will be a big event for them too. I suspect it will be the first time that an Oratorio has ever been performed in Yeovil conducted by the composer!”
The story of Omega and Alpha takes the audience from the prophecy of the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, to the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. It explores the confusion that must have been in the minds of the followers of Jesus, as he reveals he is unwilling to save himself. It charts the omega (the end) of Jesus’s life and the alpha (the beginning) of Christianity.
Award winning, Somerset born, British Spanish sings the roles of Mary and the narrator. She recently made a critically acclaimed debut at the Royal Opera House. Marta has also performed several recordings including Harvey’s Songs of Li Po for BBC Radio 3 and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Marta says: “I was delighted to have worked with Martin on the original piece and the premiere in 2013 at Wells Cathedral was a great success. In the subsequent 10 years, Martin has developed the piece and had another eight performances, so I'm excited to come back to where it all began and celebrate all that he has achieved.
“It’s a great new re-telling of the Easter Passion story. The communication is direct and impactful, you will leave humming the tunes and feel better connected to the story by the end of the piece. Martin has given me gorgeous melodies to sing and I also have some great moments with Jonathan and John.”
John Savournin performs the roles in Omega and Alpha of Judas, King Herod and Pontius Pilate. Throughout his career as both a singer and director John has undertaken many roles, mostly recently singing with the ENO chorus performing a special rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”.
He says: “Omega and Alpha is a powerful, moving piece of theatre, as much as it is a piece of music. It is full of passion and I'm very much looking forward to working with Martin and visiting a favourite part of the world again.”.
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Jonathan Ansell shot to fame on the first ever series of the X-Factor in 2004 where he, as part of pop opera group G4, came second and went on to top the charts with three albums and four sell out tours. He is one of the UK's most admired tenors, with a unique ability to truly connect with his audience through the gift of his soaring high tenor voice. He has sold more than two million albums. When G4 split in 2007, he was propelled to instant stardom as a solo artist signing a £1 million record deal with Universal Classics and Jazz and released two chart topping albums ‘Tenor at the Movies’ and ‘Forever’.
Jonathan starred in the The ‘Les Musicals’ tour in 2021/2 with Britain’s Got Talent Winner Jai McDowall, taking West End songs to a wider audiences. G4 reformed in 2014 and enjoyed a huge resurgence and extensive tours. As an ambassador for the charity Breast Cancer Care, Jonathan has been in a number of TV shows, donating his winnings to the charity from his Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire appearance. He has also been on Ready Steady Cook and Come Dine with Me.
Praised in The Telegraph for her “warm mezzo” and “velvet-voice”, Somerset born British-Spanish mezzo soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons recently made critically acclaimed debut at the Royal Opera House as Siébel in Faustand. Marta sings the roles of the narrator and Mary in Omega and Alpha. Marta has also performed several recordings including Harvey’s Songs of Li Po for BBC Radio 3, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Holst’s The Coming of Christ with the Holst Orchestra.
Composer Martin Emslie FLCM is much in demand as a freelance musical director, having conducted more than 50 musical theatre shows in Somerset. He has taught all levels of music, from primary schools to A Level and diploma level. He is currently Director of Music for two parish churches and Musical Director for two local choirs. His latest opera, a modern retelling of “Hansel and Gretel”, is set to be performed later this year. In recognition of his work, the London College of Music awarded Martin its Fellowship in Composition.
British bass-baritone and Director John Savournin studied at Trinity College of Music, where he was awarded the Founder’s Prize for Excellence and the Paul Simms Opera Prize. He enjoys a varied concert, chamber music and a contemporary music schedule and alongside his singing careers he has created productions of opera and musical theatre.
Throughout his career as both a singer and director, John has undertaken many roles including Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King for the Land’s End Ensemble, The Boy Who Lived Down the Lane by Diana Soh at the Performer’s Voice Symposium in Singapore and Stephen Oliver’s A Man of Feeling.
Omega and Alpha has been specifically written with flexibility in mind, so that performers can adapt the piece to their particular situation. The accompaniment can be provided by a full orchestra, a 13 piece ensemble or by a single church organ. The solo parts can either be sung by three soloists or separated into as many as 11 individual performers. There is also an option of performing the piece as an 80 minute or two hour performance.