John Taylor Ward’s musical life fuses performance, scholarship, and entrepreneurship in presentations that are, at once, highly affective and unaffected. Praised by the New York Times for his “impressive clarity and color” and “velvety suaveness”, Taylor’s stylistic fluency extends from the “historical performance” of western music from the 18th century and before to standard operatic repertoire, operetta, musical theatre, art song, chamber music, modern and contemporary musics, American folk music, and popular music. In the coming season, he will bring his “intensity and sincerity” (New Haven Register) to the role of Manoah in Handel’s Samson with Nicolas McGegan at Lincoln Center; a series of recitals in Paris for the Fondation des États-Unis; and the role of Don Magnifico in Rossini’s Cenerentola with the Lakes Area Music Festival.
A particularly significant facet of Taylor’s career is as a seasoned chamber music collaborator. His Carnegie Hall debut, singing Schütz’s Fili mi Absalon, was listed among Superconductor’s best concerts of 2012, and, in the realm of vocal chamber music, he has made numerous appearances with the eight-voice ensemble Roomful of Teeth, whose debut album recently topped many 2013 album-of-the-year lists, including WNYC’s Soundcheck. With the Roomful, Taylor performs with artists such as Pulizer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. As a founding member of the New Haven-based Cantata Profana, Taylor recently performed Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ 8 Songs for a Mad King to wide acclaim. In an article titled, “Mad King Stalks the Stage, Ready to Shock”, the New York Times said:
“Here, that singer was John Taylor Ward, a tall, wiry baritone, willowy and piteous one moment, bug-eyed and frothing the next. Backed by a restless soundscape of twisted early-music parodies (Handel and Haydn most clearly), nervous chatters and birdlike twitters, Mr. Ward stalked the stage in a robe and pajamas, expertly booming and screeching through the work’s disjointed reminiscences.”
In partnership with Yale University’s Department of American Studies, Taylor has recorded popular songs written in, around, and about Connecticut in the years 1880-1915 and, also under the auspices of Yale, appeared with Juilliard 415 and Masaaki Suzuki in Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Bangen as a cultural ambassador in Yangon, Myanmar. Taylor is a notable interpreter of the roles of Jesus in Bach’s Passions, having performed them across Europe and America with maestro Suzuki, Juilliard 415, and the Yale Schola Cantorum. Other favorite roles include Raphael and Adam in Haydn’s Creation (described as “sonorous” by Opera News), Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Arkel in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, the King of Scotland in Handel’s Ariodante, the title role of Cavalli’s Ercole Amante, and the Emcee in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret.
Taylor is the associate artistic director of the Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd, MN, which he co-founded in 2009. LAMF features a unique mingling of young musicians from America’s top conservatories with members of the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in projects ranging from chamber music to orchestral repertoire and fully produced operas. As a hands-on administrator, Taylor continues to create innovative programming, engage in community outreach, perform in everything from recital halls to gazebos, and, of course, move a lot of chairs.
Born in 1986 to a musical family in Boone, NC (bluegrass and Broadway, primarily), Taylor appeared as a boy soprano soloist at the National Cathedral (Washington, DC), Durham Cathedral (Durham, UK), and Claire and King’s Colleges, Cambridge. He received a high school diploma from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and entered the Eastman School of Music, from which he received a bachelor’s degree. In 2010, he began his graduate studies at the Yale School of Music, where he is currently a doctoral student. There he has served as the assistant conductor of the Opera Theatre of Yale College, while his scholarly research focuses on the performance practice of shape-note music, a unique American genre of folk hymnody. Although possessed of more interests than time to pursue them, he is an avid photographer, songwriter, and autoharpist.