On the final day in May exactly one hundred years ago, Alfred Deller was born.
Deller was principally responsible for the revitalisation and re-popularisation of the counter-tenor voice in the 20th century, mainly in Baroque and Renaissance music but also in contemporary music by composers such as Benjamin Britten – the role of Oberon in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream was written with Deller in mind.
As well as singing in the choirs of St Paul's Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral (where his voice was first spotted by Michael Tippett), Deller went on to drive performances which were historically informed, notably with his group the Deller Consort. Amongst the star singers who performed with the consort, such as soprano April Cantelo (a soloist on many St John's recordings) was Deller's son, Mark, also a counter-tenor and a Choral Scholar at St John's 1957-60.
The younger Deller followed his father in an appointment at St Paul's Cathedral (somewhere with numerous links to St John's, past and present) and has continued to direct choirs and music festivals in this country, France, the Netherlands and Brazil.
In particular, Stour Music, a festival of early music in Kent is this year marking Alfred Deller's 100th Anniversary and the 50th Anniversary of its founding by Deller in 1962, directed by Mark Deller.
The second weekend of the festival this year (22 June – 1 July 2012) will see two special concerts to honour Alfred’s legacy; on Friday 29th June, the counter-tenor Andreas Scholl will make his first appearance at Stour, in a recital which includes some of Alfred's most frequently heard Lute Songs; and then on the following evening he will be joined by a host of other distinguished counter-tenors, including former Chorister and Choral Scholar Iestyn Davies, Michael Chance and Robin Blaze, members of the Deller Consort, Brecon Baroque led by Rachel Podger and Trevor Pinnock, for a special programme of homage to Alfred.
Watch father and son singing the famous counter-tenor duet from Purcell's Come ye Sons of Art, 'Sound the Trumpet':