Under the Spotlight

Jayne Tankersley

New Zealand-born soprano, Jayne Tankersley, was based from 1999 to 2006, in Boston USA, where she completed a Masters degree in Early Music Vocal Performance at the Longy School of Music, and appeared as soloist with some of the leading period groups of America, including the Boston Early Music Festival, Handel and Haydn Society, Apollo’s Fire, Boston Baroque, Boston Cecilia, Tragicomedia, Medieval trio Liber UnUsualis, the Christmas Revels of both Cambridge and Houston, and with conductor William Christie. Jayne Tankersley is one of New Zealand’s most experienced singers of Baroque, Renaissance and Medieval music and since returning to New Zealand she has appeared with all of the premier early music ensembles in the country. Jayne has recorded for Revels, Boston Baroque, Schirmer Publishing, and with the Beggar Boys on their 2004 CD “The Darkest Midnight”. This year Jayne has played the lead role of Janet Frame in the New Zealand Opera production of Strangest of Angels (https://nzopera.com/the-strangest-of-angels-2022/).

Helen Brinkman caught up with soprano Jayne Tankersley this week about her busy musical life and the upcoming concert with NZ Barok.

Jayne you have performed many times with NZ Barok. What attracts you to the baroque repertoire and working with this ensemble?

Baroque music has been a part of my life since I was a child, and I’ve always loved its dance like freshness and beautiful grace. NZ Barok understands this music beautifully which makes it incredibly easy to perform with them!

How are you finding being back performing after so much disruption due to Covid-19?

It’s such a delight that concerts are becoming more frequent however we are all very aware we are not out of the woods yet! All of the productions I’ve been involved with this year have taken necessary protocols to get to opening night without anyone going down which has been challenging. I am in awe of the organisation’s and groups such as NZ Barok that have battled through the past few years.

It must be exciting and challenging to be playing the part of Janet Frame in the new opera “Strangest of Angels” with NZ Opera. What has this experience been like?

Telling the stories of Aotearoa is a vital ingredient in creating our country’s musical legacy and this opera, written by Ken Young and Anna Leese with libretto by Georgia Jamieson-Emms does exactly that. It is an intense and harrowing opera and I’ve had to make sure I’ve done some activities to lighten my mood after rehearsal and performances. We have all been working on it as a team for over a year now, which has been instrumental in its development. In a few weeks we will be heading to Auckland to make a film of the opera and in October the opera has its second live season as part of the Dunedin Arts Festival.

You are a much sought-after singing tutor and adjudicator. What are your young singers enjoying singing currently?

We have an extraordinary number of great singer-songwriters in our youth presently and much of my work this year has been encouraging students to keep working on finding their own individual voice in this creative way. A lot of my students adore musical theatre and the current hits are the musicals Six, Hadestown, Mean Girls, Little Women, and of course anything by Lin Manuel Miranda.

It was great to hear your feedback to The Panel of Radio NZ when a panellist was knocking Hamilton. Can you tell us about what is happening in Hamilton in regard to another musical love of yours, musical theatre?

Oh yes, that was hilarious! I couldn’t let it slide! Here in the Tron we believe we are the musical theatre capital of New Zealand. There is always a production or four on the stage at any given time, and at a recent show audition there were 150 singers that turned up to try out. Kirikiriroa is lucky to have a tight knit arts community that supports this art form and gives lots of opportunity to performers of all ages.

You will be singing Bach’s Mass in A major, BWV 234 as part of an eight-part choir with NZ Barok on 30th Sept, 1-2 Oct. Having performed Vivaldi’s Gloria last year with the same forces, how do you find working within a smaller choir?

In a smaller ensemble we can apply more attention to detail with text and nuances than we can in a larger ensemble and musical communication is easier. I am looking forward to making music with this incredible group of singers once more and putting it together with the players.

When not performing, teaching, looking after your family what do you do to relax in your spare time?

Spare time? What is this spare time you speak of 😉 ! I don’t have a whole bunch of spare time, but things that invigorate me are solving the musical problems of the world over a good chardonnay with friends, climbing mountains, and running muddy trails with my doggo Atamai.

Jayne Tankersley (far right) as Janet Frame in the NZ Opera production Strangest of Angels

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