Individual biographies

Mark Dobell (tenor)

Like many of my colleagues in the singing world, my path here has been at once the most natural and the most random thing in the world. I suppose I have been singing since I was very small (perhaps I should rephrase that – very young) in school choirs and so on. I even had a dabble at playing various instruments: my mother forced me to give up the violin, and I could only ever play ‘Happy Birthday’ on the saxophone, so I guess I discovered where my strength was pretty early on. Singing was still no more than a hobby when I found myself at Clare College, Cambridge, reading Classics. After three years as a choral scholar there, and unsure how best to use my Classics degree, I applied – successfully - for a job as a lay clerk at St George’s, Windsor. It was only then that I gave serious thought to the rather ambitious notion of making a living out of singing. A rent-free flat in a castle can be a deceptive thing.

        Three years later I started a postgraduate course at the Royal Academy of Music. Highlights of my two years there include a very exciting - for me, at any rate - operatic debut as the Male Chorus in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, and winning a prize for the best final recital. All the while I had been wheedling my way into various choirs and consort groups, as well as doing the almost statutory church work to make ends meet – the Brompton Oratory, followed by St Bride’s Fleet Street. And then one day my boss at the time, one Robert Jones, invited me to do an audition – correction, two long and difficult auditions - for the Orlando Consort. That was in 2002 and since then, well, I’ve learnt an awful lot about very early music!

        I left St Bride’s in 2006 to take up a job at Westminster Abbey. When I’m not there or working with the Orlandos, I am usually to be found working with the Sixteen (you may be unfortunate enough to have seen me on tv in the recent BBC ‘Sacred Music’ series). I love to do solo work when I can, too, although it’s been a while since I’ve been able to find the time to do opera.

        I live in Sussex with my wonderful wife Susan, who is also a singer, and my equally wonderful son James (6 years old at the time of writing). In what spare time I do get, I enjoy playing golf (badly) and doing cryptic crosswords (less badly). I dabble in the garden and I actually enjoy constructing flat-pack furniture. I will watch almost any televised sport (nothing involving horses or cars), but I am a social media refusenik. And that’s about all you need to know!


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What am I listening to?

You are listening to Je suis aussi com cils qui est ravis, a ballade by Guillaume de Machaut for three voices. As Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel puts it in her excellent liner notes for The Single Rose, our most recent recording for Hyperion Records, it is “the song of one depleted by the ravages of love.” “My head is filled with no thoughts …. Save for those of my lady love,” laments the poet-composer. You can hear more on the Hyperion website, read the engaging liner notes, and order or download tracks or the entire album in a number of formats.