Jonathan Eyers and Lachlan Craig may well be thinking of Ross Harris when they walk on stage to sing Bach with Bach Musica NZ.

The New Zealand composer gave the 22-year-old baritone and 27-year-old tenor what both describe as their big break: Eyers playing the young, doomed Billy in NZ Opera's production of Brass Poppies last year; Craig bursting from the choral ranks to provide one of the highlights of Harris' 2014 Requiem.

For Craig, it was this stepping out as a soloist that made so many of his musical worlds come together, while Eyers, in his professional operatic debut, realised working with singers such as Anna Leese and James Egglestone meant he had to step up and work hard.

On Sunday, as soloists in Bach's cantata Ich hatte viel Bekummernis, they might also be remembering their early days in our country's National Youth Choir, an institution Craig praises for getting youngsters musically involved and fostering the singers and audiences of tomorrow.


"People I met in those choirs are still some of my best friends," adds Eyers. "There's something very special about the relationships you make while creating music."

Both are happy to reveal singing heroes. English tenors John Mark Ainsley and Mark Padmore are two among Craig's "truckloads" of favourites as well as having a "soft spot" for the legendary Fritz Wunderlich.

"They're all close to my own voice type," he says. "When they sing, you have a glimmer of hope that you might sound like them one day and that's reassuring."

For Eyers, the late Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is simply the epitome of what he'd like to be and to get close to that would be amazing.

He also admires Bryn Terfel for his combination of vocal richness, power and control - features that were also apparent when Eyers sang in Danish composer Carl Nielsen's Third Symphony with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra this month.

Both see Bach as a particular challenge. Craig, contemplating the demanding arias, remarks drily this is a composer who took no prisoners when writing for singers.

"This is music that needs slow nurturing to make it feel right," he says. "Eventually, you reach a point where it feels almost therapeutic, as Bach expresses such complex, intricate ideas in music that seems so simple."

Eyers came to Bach's music as a teenage organist and now, having sung 10 cantatas and two performances of the Christmas Oratorio, he says he loves it to pieces. With his operatic background, he finds a welcome theatricality in his unusual duet with soprano Emma Roxburgh which, he says, takes a dialogue between a pleading Soul and Jesus to a new level.

What: Bach Musica NZ
Where & when: Auckland Town Hall, Sunday at 5pm