English tenor John Elwes began his musical career at Westminster Cathedral in London where he was Head Chorister. Under the name John Hahessy, he had considerable success as a boy alto – from BBC broadcasts and recordings, to concerts with conductors such as Benjamin Britten, who dedicated his Corpus Christi Carol to him. At the age of 14 he sang the part of Isaac in the world premiere recording of Britten's canticle Abraham and Isaac with the composer and Peter Pears.
John Elwes has a busy concert and operatic life, mostly in Europe, performing with conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Roger Norrington, Joshua Rifkin, and Christopher Hogwood. He has participated in more than 100 recordings. Notable among these are Dowland's First Book of Ayres, Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin, Purcell's The Tempest with Gardiner, Bach's Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and B-Minor Mass (BWV 232) with Gustav Leonhardt, Honegger's Le Roi David with Corboz, and Händel's Messiah with Masaaki Suzuki.
Full name originally John Joseph Hahessy. After studying under George Malcolm at Westminster Cathedral he went to the Royal College of Music. From age 14 he lived with the family of the tenor George Elwes (d. 1921) and later took their surname. Made his debut as a tenor in 1968 at a Promenade Concert performance of Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music". Since the late 1970s he has lived in France.
John Hahessy Includes five of the twelve 'Songs', however the record does include "The Birds" (1929) and a new arrangement, by the composer, of his "Corpus Christi Carol", from "A Boy was Born" (1933). It was arranged specially for Hahessy. Michael Berkeley is "The Cuckoo".
John HahessyMichael Ronayne Westminster Cathedral ChoirKenneth Willes Director: George Malcolm
At Christmas in 1958, Benjamin Britten went to hear the boys of the Westminster Cathedral Choir sing his Ceremony of Carols conducted by George Malcolm. He was so impressed by their voices, he wanted to write something for them. The result is the Missa Brevis, recorded here for the first time.
John Hahessy King's College Choir, Cambridge This collection brings together rarities and surprises from the Decca/Argo Britten discography, a collection notable as much for the infrequency with which much of this music is performed, as it is for the fact that many of these are world-premiere recordings of Britten’s music. The source material itself is extremely rare and virtually every recording represented here is, in its LP/EP format, a collector’s item, largely from the Argo catalogue.
The all-vocal program opens with Voices for Today which Britten wrote to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. His devotion to excellent music for children is represented by a collection of songs, including five from Friday Afternoons and sung by the boy alto John Hahessy. This is the first CD issue of these famous 1961 recordings.
Westminster Cathedral ChoirJohn HahessyMichael RonayneKenneth Willes Later releases:
Decca 425 078-2, CD; Argo Eclipse ECS 747, LP 1975; Double Decca 433 914-2, CD 1992
Second Soprano soloist in Victoria's Responsories for Tenebrae recorded in Westminster Cathedral in April 1959 with the Cathedral Choir under the inspired conducting of George Malcolm.
Hahessy is not credited on the CD liner or notes, but was identified in the LP issue on Argo Eclipse ECS 747 (1975), with Michael Ronayne as First Soprano soloist.
John Hahessy Performers:
*John Hahessy (alto)
James Bowman (Countertenor)
Peter Pears (Tenor)
John Shirley-Quirk (Bass)
Barry Tuckwell (Horn)
Osian Ellis (Harp)
Canticles 1-3 originally issued on Argo ZRG 5277
Claire Watson, Peter Pears, Jeannette Sinclair, Arda Mandikian, Patricia Clark, Rosemary Philips, John Hahessy, Michael Ronayne, Purcell Singers, English Opera Group Orchestra, George Malcolm, Benjamin Britten.
Hahessy recorded the very short part of Spirit in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas under Britten for the BBC in September 1959.
This page last modified on Tuesday, March 10, 2009