Fortismere student is ready to perform with opera legend Sir Willard White

12 year old Crouch End Festival Chorus singer James Dillon

12 year old Crouch End Festival Chorus singer James Dillon - Credit: Archant

James Dillon talks about being selected to sing at the Barbican

A 12-year-old Fortismere School student is preparing for a mountainous role in an upcoming Barbican concert, having been chosen to perform alongside one of the world’s greatest operatic bass singers, Sir Willard White.

James Dillon, who sings at Finchley Children’s Music Group, was chosen by David Temple, the long-serving conductor of the famous Crouch End Festival Chorus, to perform a section of Mendelssohn’s Elijah for their October 13 concert.

The prodigious treble will perform solo at the moment of the epic story when a child ascends the mountain to look for a rain cloud that might save the parched lands of Israel.


Speaking of his excitement, James said: “I don’t know much about the piece, but even just from the little bit I’ve been learning, I can see the story is brilliant.”

Being asked to sing on the same stage as Sir Willard is no small task for a teenager but the youngster says that he is confident and has a huge respect for his Jamaican co-performer.

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“I’ve heard he’s absolutely a legend so it’s a very big honour to play not just with him but with the choir and orchestra.

“I’d just like to thank David Temple and Grace Rossiter [who leads Finchley Children’s Music Group], it’s really great of them to give me this experience.”

Leading James and the rest of the ensemble is Temple, who has conducted the chorus since its inception 29 years ago.

After asking Rossiter to choose her best talent to rehearse with the chorus one evening, he believes he was seen a world class talent in James.

“The thing about performing solo,” he says, “is that whether you’re a singer, player or conductor, you have to have a lot of talent, obviously, but equally the confidence and bottle to do it.

“When James came and sung for me that evening it was clear he had the nerve.”

The conductor says that he is thrilled to have on board not only Sir Willard, who last performed with the chorus in 1999, but also Ben Johnson who is “probably the most up and coming tenor soloist in the UK”.

With the chorus gearing up for its 30th anniversary next year, Temple adds that this Barbican concert will be just one example of why it has become internationally renowned over the last few decades.

“The group is world class so it is important we work with people who turn it into a world class event. And that includes the young boy – there are no weak links.”

James Dillon and the Crouch End Festival Chorus will perform Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the Barbican Concert Hall on October 13. Tickets start from £10 and can be booked by visiting or calling 020 7638 8891.