EL PARNASO HYSPANO is an international chamber group of singers and instrumentalists dedicated to the performance of early Hispanic music, ranging from the medieval to the baroque and early classical. Our repertoire encompasses Spain and Latin America, with a specialism in the music of “Golden Age” [El Siglo de Oro 1500-1700] when the Spanish empire was at its height. In this time there was a wealth of musical creativity in the major cultural and religious centres, particularly in what afterwards became Bolivia and Peru, the richest viceroyalties of South America. Much of this music is only now being recently rediscovered and published for contemporary performance, and the group showcases the richness of the Hispanic musical legacy of the Americas. They help to make known music written in native American languages, such as Quechua, Guarani, Nahuatl and Mochica, an extinct language.
El Parnaso Hyspano is the artistic vision of its founder Rafael Montero, begun in Cologne in 2016, and since 2020 involving professional musicians based in London, but with international heritage, bringing not only musical but cultural enrichment, contributing to a multicultural dialogue.
Their repertoire includes religious and secular solo cantatas for voice and continuo as well as the famous polyphonic works of the Spanish Renaissance and South American baroque for vocal ensemble with continuo accompaniment.
Kate Smith | Soprano
Kate Smith is a vocal artist, composer, and workshop leader whose practice is defined by the search for connections between people and disciplines, voice, and body. She has traveled a diverse artistic path, moving from working in film and music in the US and China to settling in London where she studied classical voice, earned her MMus from The Guildhall, and created The Embodied Voice. Kate is passionate about creating music - and facilitating collective music-making - for voices and bodies in motion; music that transforms our relationship to the body, ultimately breaking down divisions between mind-body-voice, self-other-nature.
With a varied career spanning the worlds of classical singing and vocal improvisation, Kate is an in-demand performer and maker in British vocal theatre. Kate is a member of Verity Standen’s acclaimed Undersong, a creative collaborator with a range of artists (Kima, Re:Sound, Convex), and Artistic Director of THAT! Ensemble, and thriving London-based improvisational movement and voice group. She has performed leading roles with Re:Sound Music Theatre’s opera Thousand Furs, and T;Art Productions Cosi fan Tutti the Remake. Kate has worked for and performed at the TATE Exchange, The London Charterhouse, Hundred Years Gallery, The Nest Collective, The Barbican, Greenwich Dance, Cyphers Theatre Company, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and more.
Kate’s decades of choral experience include singing with 3-time ASCAP award-winning choir Cantori New York, early music (Nine Gates Polyphony), shapenote (Iron Works), contemporary (MUSARC), consort (Guildhall Consort) and more.
Verónica Chacón | Alto
Verónica is a London based versatile mezzo-soprano, voice-over & illustrator-designer originally from Geneva. There, she studied musical theory, choral singing, piano, improvisation & choreography through the Eurhythmics method at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, as well sang at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève. Verónica carried on her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London (1998).
After co-creating with Jérôme Royet Sounds & Shapes Ltd (since 2008), their own company which allows her to reunite music & design, she also runs her own choir, now called V&J Ensemble and is a singing coach specialised in French repertoire. She developed her musical and communication pedagogy in various projects (School-of-Rock-a-by-Babies, from 2009); improvisation (TIC The Improvisers’ Choir - winner of Non-Classical Battle of the Bands 2018 - Dancing with Parkinson’s (2019), THAT! Ensemble (since 2016), a mixed-genre group of 4 musicians and physical theatre comedians which explores vocal improvisation, acting, and dance).
Verónica is also a musician session and voice-over artist recording for School-of-Rock-a-by-Babies ('rest & play', 2016) and for TIC – The Improvisers' Choir (Landmass, 2018).
Her love for Early Music started from a young age when she was a soloist at the age of 13 in the Stabat Mater by Pergolesi.
Her latest work includes a voice & piano programme of French Songs & Jazz Standards for V&J as well as a mandalas & voice album called 'Sounds & Shapes'.
Rafael Montero | Tenor (Founder)
Rafael Montero, founder of El Parnaso Hyspano, is a solo tenor and ensemble singer, singing teacher, and coach.
He specialises in renaissance Spanish and South American Baroque music and also in romantic and contemporary chamber music from Hispanic South America and Spain. Rafael studied singing at the Conservatorio Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina, and then in early and chamber music at the Conservatoire de Musique de Neuchatel, Switzerland. He has performed many Hispanic Lieder in Europe, including at the Sommerblut Festival in Cologne.
In 2008, he sang at the first BachFest Cochabamba, Bolivia under the direction of Elizabeth Schwimmer. In 2016, he created the first Ancient Music Festival in Jujuy, Argentina "Xuxuy Barroco", where he sang songs and arias with the Orquesta Infanto Juvenil de Jujuy. In 2016 he was invited by the director of the Instituto Cervantes de Viena to perform music from the times of Cervantes, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death. Rafael’s heritage is Inca and Spanish, and he has spoken Quichua since he was a child.
He specialises in didactic concerts where he introduces the background to the pieces he sings in an approachable way for a general audience. In 2019 he made his London debut with the celebrated pianist Nigel Foster, showcasing a repertoire of songs from a very little-known body of classical music by Spanish-American and Spanish-influenced composers who wrote songs in Spanish and in Native American languages such as Quichua, Aymara, Nahuatl or Chilean Mapuche.
He has coached musicians and singers who want to interpret early Hispanic music and singing in native American languages and Spanish.
John Sloboda | Bass
John Sloboda, OBE, FBA is a singer, pianist, conductor, and researcher. He is a founder member of the vocal quartet of El Parnaso Hyspano.
He has sung with many groups including the Chapel Choir of the Queen’s College Oxford, the Chorus of the Academy of St Martin’s in the Field, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus.
At Keele University he was founder conductor of the Keele Bach Choir and conducted performances of many major works including Monteverdi’s Vespers and Bach’s Mass in B Minor. He is currently Assistant Conductor of Chorus of Dissent, a community choir based in Hackney, London.
He trained as a pianist with Else Cross and has specialised in accompanying, currently working with the tenor Rafael Montero. Their debut concert was hosted by the Instituto Katarina Gurska, Madrid, in April 2020 as an academic-artistic contribution to the debate about new concert formats under the restrictions of Covid-19.
He is also a music psychologist, currently Research Professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where one of his major interests has been the psychology of the live concert, and how to enhance the audience experience.
He is author of many books, including “Exploring the Musical Mind”. In 2018 he was awarded the OBE for services to Psychology and Music.
Katarzyna Kowalik | Harpsichord & Organ
Katarzyna Kowalik is a London based harpsichordist and early keyboard specialist of Polish origins. She completed her Master Degree in Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London (MPerf 2012) with Carole Cerasi, James Johnstone, and Nicholas Parle, obtaining The City of London Corporation Award (2011) and Guildhall School Trust Award (2010). She was also awarded a prestigious Guildhall Artist Fellowship in both 2012 and 2013. Katarzyna also trained at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw between 2000-2011: Piano Masters (MA 2005), Harpsichord Masters (MA 2011).
Katarzyna mastered her skills in the Piccola Accademia in Montisi studying with Christophe Rousset (2012) and Skip Sempé (2015 in Utrecht, 2017 in Paris) as well as with Ilton Wjuniski at the Académie Musicale de Villecroze (2011).
Katarzyna has performed in many prestigious concert venues in the UK and internationally, as a soloist and with many groups and orchestras such as Amadè Players, Brandenburg Baroque Soloists, Classical Opera, Double Entendre, Fiori Musicali, Literary Music, Little Baroque Company, London Concertante, London Musical Arts Orchestra, Music for Awhile, La Serenissima, Opera Lyrica and Royal Baroque.
In 2015 Katarzyna was a participant of the Handel House Talent Scheme - a programme to further the career development of promising young professional baroque music performers. She also won a Basso Continuo Prize at the ‘Gianni Gambi’ Competition in Pesaro (Italy).
Katarzyna’s CDs include ‘Forgotten Vienna’ with The Amadè Players (Resonus Classics 2015), Meilyr Jones’s album ‘2013’ as well as ‘French Collection’ solo harpsichord CD (2018). She has also recorded for BBC Radio1.
Katarzyna works as a harpsichord and basso continuo teacher at Morley College in London, and private piano and harpsichord teacher.
Toby Carr | Lute & Guitar
A lutenist and guitarist from London, Toby Carr is known as an engaging and responsive artist, performing with some of the finest musicians in the business. Having studied at Trinity Laban and the Guildhall School he is now active as a soloist, continuo player and chamber musician with a varied diary of work in the field of historically informed performance, bringing old music to new audiences in exciting and innovative ways.
This has included working many of the foremost period instrument groups in the UK and beyond, including Dunedin Consort, Academy of Ancient Music, Early Opera Company, La Nuova Musica and Irish Baroque Orchestra.
Toby has also worked for the Royal Ballet, London Philharmonic Orchestra, RTE Symphony Orchestra, Longborough Festival Opera and for English Touring Opera for four tours from 2016-2020. Toby is a founding member of Ceruleo and Lux Musicae London, and appears on a recent recording of the works of Barbara Strozzi by Fieri Consort. In 2019 he made his Wigmore Hall debut with Dame Emma Kirkby and her group Dowland Works.
Settled in south-east London with his wife and frequent collaborator, baroque harpist Aileen Henry, Toby’s interests outside of music include cooking and traveling, though when not working he generally tries to do as little as possible.
Aileen Henry | Harp
Aileen Henry studied at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with Gabriella Dall’Olio and Frances Kelly, gaining her BMus and MMus in harp performance.
Aileen is currently studying baroque harp with Mara Galassi at Civica Scuola di Musica Claudio Abbado in Milan, and is active as a continuo player and soloist in the UK and Europe.
As a continuo player for baroque opera Aileen has worked with English Touring Opera on Purcell, Carissimi and Gesualdo in 2018, and is looking forward to joining them again for Handel in their Spring 2020 season. Aileen features on a recent recording by Fieri Consort, which focuses on the works of Barbara Strozzi and virtuosic instrumental music.
Aileen is a founding member of the group Lux Musicae London, who have recently been funded by Arts Council England for a tour of their programme ‘The Secrets of Andalusia’, and have been invited to perform at various festivals such as London Festival of Baroque Music, Brighton Early Music Festival and Festival of the Future City Bristol.
James Akers | Guitar & Theorbo
Critically acclaimed musician was hailed as ‘the great Scottish guitarist’ by Classical Guitar Magazine and, in a review from Gramophone, his playing was described as, ‘containing all the warmth, colour and expressive richness one could hope for.’ James studied at the Royal College of Music, London and has performed widely with leading artists, ensembles, and opera companies. He has released several solo recordings and given recitals throughout the world.
Throughout his varied career, James has explored music from a stylistic perspective, combining diligent research with expressive playing to communicate the continuity of musical expression through the centuries.