YORK countertenor Iestyn Davies MBE will perform works by Dowland, Purcell and Handel at the National Centre for Early Music in York on Sunday afternoon as part of Ryedale Festival's Easter programme.
Iestyn is in such demand that finding a gap in his diary for a face-to-face interview at one of his favourite York locales, The Kiosk in Fossgate, is a challenge. "He is currently in the States and then will be in rehearsals at the Royal Opera House when he returns," wrote Sharp Arts Media publicist Libby Binks. "We just need to see if he has planned to come home in between."
Thankfully, Iestyn had done so, amid all those engagements and the small matter of receiving his MBE for services to music from Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on March 16. "I’m honoured to receive the order of MBE," he said in the immediate aftermath of the New Year's Honours List being announced.
"I have been singing for as long as I can remember and I have always worked hard and given all I can so that others can enjoy some of the greatest music ever written. In this distinction therefore, I recognise those who have been integral to my musical upbringing; my parents and the Choir of St John’s College Cambridge, in particular George Guest and Christopher Robinson. The MBE will continue to remind me of the significance and good fortune a musical education has given me.”
The ceremony had been as memorable as 37-year-old Iestyn could have wished. "It was all rather nice because Prince Charles said he was so disappointed that he hadn't been able to see Farinelli And The King [Claire van Kampen’s Olivier Award-nominated West End play in which Davies sang the role of Farinelli], but Mark Rylance [the play's star] had assured him that I would do a command performance," he says. "It would be wonderful if I could sort that out with Clarence House!"
Ray Davies, of The Kinks, was receiving his knighthood at the same ceremony last month. "Unlike Prince Charles, he had seen Farinelli And The King, on the first night, and I'd met him at the party afterwards!" says Iestyn.
This Sunday afternoon, from 3pm to 4.45pm, Davies will be accompanied by lutenist Thomas Dunford in an evocative, intimate programme from the golden age of the lute song. "Thomas is the best lutenist in the world by far. Not only is he very good technically but his musicality is second to none and his ability to listen and accompany is unrivalled," says Iestyn.
What's more, Dunford is as busy as Davies. "He won't be coming over from Paris until that morning, as he's pretty much in demand every day, so there's potential for an a cappella concert, but he'll be there!," says Iestyn. "We're deliberately doing repertoire we've done before, where I can send him the order of performance in advance. Thomas is a very versatile player, and it's repertoire that works particularly well together."
No sooner has Iestyn sung in York than he will head south to London for the British premiere of Thomas Adès’ eagerly anticipated new opera The Exterminating Angel at the Royal Opera House from Monday to May 8.
Tickets for Iestyn Davies In Recital on Sunday at the NCEM, York, are on sale on 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk