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Tessa Bonner

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Biography

Tessa Bonner enjoyed a significant career as a classical singer, it fell well outside the usual world of concert hall and opera house. Indeed, it took her along a path that a piano-playing schoolgirl from Hounslow, west London, could scarcely have imagined in the 1960s.

Born in Hammersmith and educated at Isleworth Green school for girls, Tessa started work behind the scenes on such BBC programmes as Blue Peter and Face the Music. Only at the age of 25, after an early marriage, did she decide to study for a degree in music. At Leeds University, with singing lessons from the Deller Consort’s Honor Sheppard and exposure to the burgeoning world of early music, she found the perfect outlet for her distinctive musical and vocal personality.

Tessa had a refreshingly clear and exceptionally true voice. Her touchingly unaffected singing first caught my ear when I was visiting Leeds, and I was quick to offer what proved to be her very first professional engagement, with the Taverner Choir, when she returned to London in 1979 for further study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

With the extraordinary surge of activity in exploring renaissance and baroque repertoires - led by the BBC and fed by the record companies - the usual distinctions between solo and choral singing were beginning to break down, and one-to-a-part ensemble singing was becoming commonplace. Tessa was in her element, her musical instincts and ambitions perfectly at one with the voice nature had given her. She had no wish to “progress” to later repertories or to a “bigger” career.

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