Montgomery County Music Festival



About the Festival

About the






The soloists for the 2017 Montgomery County Music Festival are

Phillippa Lay (soprano)
Cathy Bell (mezzo)


Phillippa Lay (soprano)

Phillippa LayPhillippa practices the three major disciplines of song, opera and oratorio and recently completed a post-graduate vocal performance course at the Birmingham Conservatoire, under the tutelage of mezzo-soprano Louise Crane, early music tenor Andrew King and tenor Julian Pike amongst other renowned musicians.

Her initial musical studies were undertaken at the Colchester Institute School of Music and Drama, where in her final year Phillippa took the title role in the college's operatic production of Semele (Handel) and won first place in the 'Norman Tattersall Singing Competition'. After her training at Colchester, Phillippa moved to London and continued to develop her skills by completing the acclaimed English National Opera funded performance course, 'The Knack' led by Mary King. During the course she landed a key solo role in the infamous television opera, When She Died; The Death of a Princess written to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, with music by Jonathan Dove. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 and subsequently on PBS, an American arts channel.

During her time at Birmingham Conservatoire Phillippa was cast in a number of solo operatic roles, including Susannah in the Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) and more recently was in the opening cast of the World Premiere of Michael Wolters' and Alexandra Taylor's new opera Ava's Wedding, commissioned for the Conservatoire in which she created the role of Celia, a rather exacting and forthright mother of the bride. Before completing her studies at Birmingham Conservatoire Phillippa was cast in the role of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Mozart) for a concert performance of the opera by post-graduate vocal students and current conservatoire instrumentalists.

Phillippa has staged many recitals and performed oratorios in London and the surrounding counties and most recently sung Ode for St Cecelia (Handel) with the Charlton Kings Choral Society and tenor James Gilchrist, The Creation (Haydn) with Wantage Choral Society and Mass in C Minor (Mozart) with both The Froxfield Singers and Dulwich Sinfonia Chorus on separate occasions. She has performed with composers and conductors of great note including John Nelson, Sir David Willcocks, David Hill, John Rutter and Stephen Layton.

Her contribution to commercial recordings is varied and numerous; she was featured as a soloist with the Collegiate Singers on their CD entitled Herbert Howells: Morning and Evening Canticles Volume 3 (Priory Records) and has performed in a whole host of other releases, including a CD of contemporary Spanish music of Abril performed by the much praised professional choir Coro Cervantes.

Cathy Bell (mezzo-soprano)

Cathy BellCathy Bell studied English and Medieval Literature at Cambridge and singing as a postgraduate at Birmingham Conservatoire. Now based in London, she specialises in Baroque and contemporary repertoire and was a member of Handel House Talent 2014-15.

Opera roles include Carmen for Barefoot Opera; Arsamenes (Handel Xerxes) for Hampstead Garden Opera; Russian Nanny (Britten Death in Venice) for Garsington Opera; Third Lady/Third Boy (Mozart Die Zauberflöte) for Diva Opera and the Palestine Mozart Festival; Arasse (Hasse Siroe) for the London Handel Festival; and roles in contemporary operas for Tête à Tête, Grimeborn and WNO MAX. Chorus work includes Scottish Opera, Garsington, Grange Park, Bergen Nasjonale Opera and the festivals in Aix-en-Provence and Beijing.

Cathy has a busy schedule as an oratorio soloist and recitalist. Recent highlights include JS Bach Mass in B minor with Leicester Bach Choir; CPE Bach Magnificat with Nottingham Harmonic Choir; Handel Messiah with Cantemus; Rachmaninov Vespers with Britten Sinfonia Voices, Oxford Bach Choir, Wimbledon Choral Society, Sonoro and Constanza Chorus; Lully arias at the Wallace Collection; and a lecture recital, “Handel by Candle”, at the Handel House.

Cathy also works regularly with groups including the BBC Singers, the Academy of Ancient Music, Philharmonia Voices, Sonoro, the Clerks' Group and EXAUDI. She studies privately with Robert Dean.