The tenor Gerald English (1925-2019) had a long and distinguished career, beginning as a founder member of the Deller Consort in 1950. He sang in some of the first modern performances of Monteverdi’s operas and madrigals, and worked with composers such as Stravinsky and Britten, Tippett, Henze and Berio. In 1977 he founded the Opera Studio at the Victorian College of the Arts, basing the second half of his career in Australia. Known for his clarity of tone and diction, English was fearless in tackling new music, and commissioned many Australian composers to write for him.
Gerald English was a long-term friend of Andrew Ford, who wrote 12 vocal works for his voice including Sacred Places (1985), A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1986), Harbour (1992) and Dancing with Smoke (1995). In 1990, English sang the first perfomance of Ford’s music-theatre piece, Whispers (to words by Rodney Hall) with Sydney’s Seymour group, followed over the next decade by performances in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. English’s last major stage role was Freud in Andrew Ford and Margaret Morgan’s Night and Dreams – the death of Sigmund Freud. This work had its first performances at the 2000 Adelaide Festival followed by seasons at the Sydney and Melbourne festivals in 2001.
Listen to a short remembrance of English on The Music Show (10 February 2019)
Read Andrew Ford’s tribute to his friend in Inside Story (11 February 2019)
The Decca Eloquence album featuring Night and Dreams, with Gerald English as Freud, is available on the AMC website.