Chorale Conversations: Jason Barry-Smith, bass


What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming performances of ‘The Creation’?

The greatest joys of making music are the communities with which you work.  The community that’s been brought together for The Creation is a mixture of people I’ve known all of my performing life, and new friends, all of whom are brilliant at what they do.  I’ve also loved the piece since I was a teenager, and this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to perform it.  What a joy!

Most people who want to be singers would rather be Beyonce than Bartoli, or Bruno Mars than Bryn Terfel; so why classical singing?

Well, I have, and still do, sing in many styles and love having that flexibility.  There is so much great music in so many genres, but it’s easy to forget the power music has when performed live.  I think the most unappealing thing about being Beyoncé or Bruno Mars would be the constant examination of your life by the press.  I love singing wonderful music without living under a microscope.

Which singer/s are your vocal heroes and why?

I think I can probably prune my list down to three.  The great German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was an inspiration to me from the beginning of my journey through classical music.  His sheer vocal capacity was exceptional, and his mastery of such vast repertoire was formidable. Anthony Warlow is another because his singing of music theatre repertoire is second to none, and much of his repertoire was very similar to that which I sang when I was younger.  Lastly, Sarah Vaughan, the great jazz singer, because she was always searching for beauty and truth in every one of her interpretations, and she never sang a song the same way twice! 

What’s the most helpful vocal or performance tip you’ve picked up from your teacher/s?

I’ve received so much wonderful advice from so many wonderful people, but the best piece of advice I still continue to live by and pass on is from someone I never met, the great British soprano, Isobel Baillie.  I borrowed her autobiography from my local library when I was 14 years old, and the title stuck with me: ‘Never sing louder than lovely’. 

What pieces or works are on your performance “bucket list”?

I’ve been so blessed to have performed so many of the pieces on my bucket list, but there are definitely a few roles in Gilbert & Sullivan I’d love to tackle, especially Bunthorne in ‘Patience’ and Jack Point in ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’.

What else might we find on your play-list besides choral and classical music?

Lots of music theatre, G&S, Sarah Vaughan, Whitney Houston…and lots of podcasts!

If you could invite five guests (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Does it have to be just a dinner party, not a whole weekend?  Either way I’d love to invite Oscar Wilde, Clara Schumann, Marcus Aurelius, Hildegard von Bingen, and Stephen Fry.

Besides singing, do you have any special talents or skills you’d like to share with us?

All of my talents have something to do with music, but people tell me that I’m quite good at accents.  It can be very helpful at times.