Ahead of our upcoming concert, Georgian London on Tuesday 16 June, we caught up with baritone, Ashley Riches before he joins us to perform Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum at Shoreditch Church. He reflects on his spontaneous decision to become a musician, why Don Giovanni is his favourite piece of music and role to sing, and his long-standing admiration for Polyphony, who joins him and CLS for this exciting concert.
When did you know you wanted to become a musician, and what spurred you on?
Actually, there was never really a moment… I had a training contract with a law firm not far from Spitalfields, but decided to try a year at music college before settling down to a ‘proper job’! Somehow it went well enough that I decided to give it a go. I’m a little bit fatalistic about these things – singing is the sort of career that chooses you, to some degree.
If you could travel back in time (and it didn’t cause a time paradox!), what advice would you give to yourself at the beginning of your career?
I would try to educate myself out of a fear of failure. It’s all too easy to think of reasons why possibilities won’t work out, rather than concentrate on the reasons why they will.
And what’s been your most memorable concert experience?
Difficult to choose, but my first gala at Covent Garden, performing a duet with Robert Alagna and meeting the Queen afterwards was quite a highlight!
If you could only sing one piece or role for the rest of your life, what would it be? And why?
Don Giovanni. It’s a fascinating role (and piece), with the possibility for extraordinary light and darkness in the portrayal. There are so many unknowns about the Don’s motivations, and indeed everyone else’s, to keep the work endlessly fascinating.
Has there been anyone who has been particularly inspiring for you in your career?
I’ve been lucky to come into contact with a great number of extraordinary people, but I will always be grateful to my first singing teacher, Julian Smith, who made singing such a simple and joyful thing to do. In all the complexities of music-making, that kind of directness has to be the aim.
You perform Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum with us on 16 June. What are you most looking forward to about this performance?
I listened to Polyphony’s recordings repeatedly while growing up, and I was lucky enough to perform and record with the group after leaving university. It’s a real honour to appear alongside people I’ve looked up to for such a long time.
Georgian London – as part of Spitalfields Music Summer Festival
Tuesday 16 June, 7.30pm
Shoreditch Church, London
Tickets from £5 available from Spitalfields Music Box Office