William Purefoy – Counter-tenor


The Beginning

William was born in Weymouth. Very nearly in a rowing boat.

The bit after the beginning but before the bit when he was at boarding school

William attended a girl's school in Yeovil which took young boys whose parents thought a good early education shouldn't preclude being in touch with one's feminine side, but only up to a certain age honest. It was also very near his mother's office. Some singing definitely took place.

The bit just after that, which I nearly forgot about

William attended a voluntary aided primary school in sunny Martock where in his last year his reading age was beyond that of his teacher and where, to aid his inability to get on with any of the local children, he was required by the same teacher to answer all of their Maths questions. Less singing took place on the grounds that it was dangerous and a tendency towards clowning was developed for self preservation purposes. “Go on, Poofhouse, make I laugh!”

The boarding school bit

William attended the then all boys school Christ's Hospital, a wonderful establishment in his opinion, despite the possibly dubious decision to make everyone wear odd clothes including yellow stockings. Huge quantities of singing took place and a desire to sing like a girl was developed during the period when his speaking voice was determined to impersonate an actual man.

The bit after that which took place in Oxford

William spent three years as an Academical Clerk at Magdalen College Oxford pretending to do Maths, the whole time continuing to sing like a girl as well as squandering someone's money on beer and curry.

The next bit, before joining Cantabile

William moved to London, sang like a girl but got paid for it and met his wonderful wife Helen.

The Cantabile bit

In the same year as marrying the glorious Helen, and starting singing lessons with the teacher he still learns with, Mr David Pollard, William joined the illustrious four man vocal group Cantabile. There were so many amazing things that happened in these two years, including an album, countless radio and television appearances, trips to Singapore and America, blah blah blah, it was fabulous.

The 25 year sabbatical bit

During the next patch, lots happened. Two gorgeous and life affirming children, three years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, winning some competitions and medals and being in the Ferrier final, singing with I Fagiolini and Theatre of Voices, loads of recordings, concerts all over the world, operas all over the world too including New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, France and lots in England. Still very much singing like a girl but also getting to wear stockings for a living too.

The now bit

William was approached by a group called The London Quartet, two of whom vaguely resembled older versions of members of the group he was in 25 years previously, Cantabile. They asked him to do some concerts and he said yes. Very happily.

The next bit

The rest isn't history. Yet. But the chances are it will include singing like a girl.

Christopher O’Gorman – Tenor


Christopher grew up in South Africa and sang in the Pietermaritzburg Children’s Choir until his voice broke. He decided not to carry on singing and instead concentrated on played the piano, which he continued at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music when he moved to the UK aged 12. It was his ambition to pursue a career as a pianist playing really difficult (for the listener!) avant-garde chamber music. That was until he went to The University of York! 

It was during his first ever university project (a compulsory a cappella music theatre production) when he volunteered on a whim to sing tenor in one of the chamber groups. Because tenors are apparently notoriously hard to find, he found that he was suddenly being asked to take part in many other singing activities, so much so that he didn’t have time to practice the piano any more. He also discovered the joy of singing early polyphony in groups and from there the dye was cast. He changed his first study to voice and has learnt quite a lot about beer along the way – singers being the sociable bunch that they are. He stayed at York to complete an MA in Vocal Studies with John Potter specialising in Medieval Performance. He has been singing professionally ever since and people seem to like it; Gramophone Magazine has even described him as having a ‘…glorious voice….’. 

Christopher is delighted to now be singing as a regular member of The London Quartet. He is lucky to have already visited America and Germany with the group and looks forward to travelling to new corners of the globe with them. As well as his work with TLQ, he also pursues a career as a Songman in the Choir of York Minster and as a member of the Conductus Ensemble, as well as an ad hoc ensemble singer with a number of groups including the Gabrieli Consort, The Binchois Consort, Ex Cathedra, Britten Sinfonia Voices and The Brabant Ensemble.

Mark Fleming – Tenor


Mark was born in Croydon in 1965, and therefore is well acquainted with 60s-concrete buildings. He was delivered in Mayday Hospital and people have been in distress ever since. 

He attended the 60s-concrete (rebuilt) Trinity School, where he was a member of the prestigious Trinity Boys' Choir. Amongst the many wonderful opportunities that this afforded him were understudying the part of 'A Sprite' in The Magic Flute at English National Opera, conducted by Sir Charles Groves, and playing one of a band of fairies in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream both at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Snape Maltings as part of the Aldeburgh Festival. Away from the supernatural, he was able to show his prowess at nose-picking on camera behind Bing Crosby's head in the great crooner's last TV appearance, which also involved most of Bing's family (including the one who shot JR), plus Twiggy and David Bowie. The nose parts do not unfortunately appear on the video. Furthermore he was caught on Dutch TV both falling asleep in the (long Dutch) sermon and clearly not watching the conducting - these habits have died hard! 

More School Daze

He sang in the première at the Royal Albert Hall, for the Queen in 1977, of the notorious Jubilee Hymn by John Betjeman and Malcolm Williamson. And once again was caught peering (surreptitiously, he thought) out of the corner of his eyes at the camera during the latter's The Red Sea on Good Afternoon with Mavis Nicholson. He recorded jingles for LBC and a one-sentence solo 'Urchin' part in La Bohème with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by James Levine, as well as a sickeningly sugary treble solo on a Reader's Digest Christmas boxed set (Christmas with the Fireside Singers) in Do You Hear What I Hear? He is delighted that life can come a full circle once again as Cantabile tracks are on the newer Reader's Digest compilation Golden Groups sing Unforgettable Songs ! Mark's parents have just about forgiven him for participating in Hans Werner Henze's piece The Raft of the Medusa at the Royal Albert Hall, and their having to listen to three hours of fantastically modern music on the radio to hear the boys' choir moments. His (now broken) voice can be still heard solo above the choir during the closing titles of the film Another Country , if you can find a copy of the video/DVD.

The School Choir (Trinity Choristers) sang church services in the local area, and went on regular Easter Cathedral courses. Mark enjoyed the delights of many of these fantastic music-making acoustics, two highlights of which must be when - unbeknown to all parties, clearly - he sang the tenor solo in Kenneth Leighton's Crucifixus Pro Nobis in Chichester Cathedral to his future mother-in-law; and singing a solo in a live Christmas Eve 'Nine Lessons and Carols', broadcast for Capital Radio.

Playing, Acting & Conducting

He was a member of the school Male Voice Choir and started arranging for male voices at the tender age of sixteen, when he also learned to read/use jazz chords on the guitar and the piano... so much easier than reading the music - oh the waste of misspent youth! - but such a help to an arranger.

Playing the violin, he led the School Orchestra, was a leading member of both Croydon Youth Orchestras and went on to lead his University Orchestra...mostly astray. Surely his favourite moment was leading the School Orchestra having broken his fly in his trousers. He was asked not to enjoy the concert too much - a feat he managed. His version of the violin solo in Grieg's Holberg Suite with the University of East Anglia String Orchestra brings tears to the eyes, and ears. He has a recording, and will not let you hear it.

He also decided the stage was a fun place to be, and played a wide variety of policemen & soldiers (well it was a boys' school). He most enjoyed wearing Michael York's pith helmet in Conduct Unbecoming, set during the Raj, and playing the Headmaster in the tremendous farce The Happiest Days of Your Life - with real girls from a local school, thankfully. His delight in Pantomime also started whilst still at school, when he joined the Mitre Players and started messing about every Christmas in home-grown panto - and doing all their other shows he could manage.

He continued his studies in music at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. [Continuing the concrete theme: UEA boasts the longest straight concrete fascia in Western Europe.] He started enjoying bossing people about and conducted many orchestral and choral concerts at the University and the Cathedral. These included Haydn's Nelson Mass (his A-level set work!), Messiah , Brahms' 4, Façade (in 20s dress), Britten's Cantata Academica and the Bax Violin Concerto (with the 1986 Young Musician of the Year, Alan Brind - a Norwich lad - as soloist). He was also a Choral Scholar at Norwich Cathedral.

Incomparable World of the Vocal Group

As a post-graduate at the Royal College of Music in London, he was taught by Neil Mackie, and pretended to be interested in Opera for a few months. He also co-ran an early music group Nuove Musiche , specialising in Monteverdi, and was coached by Nigel Rogers. But finally the incomparable world of the Vocal Group became his home. 

As well as arranging and orchestrating many a piece for Cantabile, Mark composes music, mainly for the stage. He has written several pantomime scores, and four settings of music for Shakespeare plays; one of which - A Midsummer Night's Dream - was performed at the newly-reconstructed Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames. These compositional exploits have mainly been with his old friends in The Mitre Players - for more information on them do go to www.mitreplayers.org.uk

Mark is married to 'cellist and composer Tanera Dawkins. Her many achievements include having taught Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) the piano for two years; appearing on Emmerdale [with Token Women] and Blue Peter [with The Drones] playing the 'cello; arranging and playing on albums by Lamb and Squeeze; and having some of her film scores heard on Channel 4, Discovery Channel and at the Cannes Film Festival 2006! She wrote the music to the BAFTA-nominated animation by Siri Melchior 'The Dog who was a Cat Inside'.

To find out more, with audio & video clips, visit www.taneradawkins.com 

In a much more amicable way than they feared, Tan and Mark co-wrote the music to The Country Wife for the Mitres and it was performed at Cornwall's splendid Minack Theatre - as well as in a Croydon car park. But their most unbelievable creation together is Tom, who turned up in July 2001; he keeps them very busy playing his trumpet, guitar and drums - it can only get noisier as he gets older it seems. Cats, Oddbod & Sam are now both dearly missed - though we have gained a new space where they used to do their business! In Tan and Mark's possession also are three 'cellos, two pianos, a guitar, a dusty violin, a penny whistle [Tom's] (oh, and a bass accordion!)...and an ud [that's a Turkish lute], and a computer which writes music with Tan's expert help... plus sundry recorders, drums and some rather splendid homemade claves. 

P.S. For football fans only: Mark and his family, in the esteemed company of Bernard Ingham, John Kettley and Alastair Campbell, support Burnley Football Club.

Michael Steffan – Baritone


Michael Steffan is a founder member of Cantabile – The London Quartet. He was born and brought up in Cardiff, then went up to Cambridge, where he read Modern and Mediæval Languages. He subsequently returned to Cardiff to study at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and continued his vocal training with the eminent German baritone, Gerhard Hüsch and later with celebrated Italian mezzo and teacher, Laura Sarti. He has also studied with Hugues Cuénod and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

Since Cantabile became a full-time concern in 1982, Michael Steffan's CV reads almost identically with that of the group, with whom he has travelled extensively, singing in an enormous variety of prestigious events and venues around the world. 

Concert and Oratorio Repertoire

As a soloist outside Cantabile, Michael has sung much of the standard bass and baritone concert and oratorio repertoire, from Handel and Bach to Brahms and Orff. He has also appeared with The Singers Company, and sang the rôle of Æneas in a performance of Dido and Æneas to inaugurate the new theatre at St. Paul's Girls' School in London, before the Queen Mother. On the recital platform he has sung Beethoven, Schumann and Mahler with pianist Malcolm Martineau. In quite a different field, he has written and performed several titles on CDs in the Voices series for the Atlantic 7 label. 

Amongst the many highlights of his career with Cantabile he includes being invited to sing privately for Herbert von Karajan, being awarded First prize in the Eurovision International Star Festival, recording a single with Tim Rice and logging the highest-ever performance by a vocal group in a hot-air balloon. 

Mike lives between Richmond Park and the River Thames in Kingston-upon-Thames, just to the south-west of London. His two children make mincemeat of him on the tennis court, but he enjoys cooking and gardening and could happily watch someone do either of these for hours on end.