Nash was born in Deptford, South London, his father being a master-builder at a time of considerable expansion in the city. The family was musical and listening to Caruso on the gramophone encouraged Nash to apply for and gain a scholarship from the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music (where his teacher was Marie Brema). However the outbreak of World War I, in which he served in France, Salonika, Egypt and Palestine, prevented him from taking this up until after hostilities had ceased.
After fulfilling some concert engagements, Nash joined Podrecca and Feodora’s Italian Marionettes, singing tenor roles in various Italian operas in the pit of such London theatres as the Coliseum and Scala while the puppets mimed the action on-stage. Following its London season the company secured an engagement in New York, Nash appearing with them; upon his return to Europe a friend advanced him the funds necessary to study with Giuseppe Borgatti in Milan. Having married in 1923, Nash set off for Italy and while working with Borgatti, in 1924 he substituted with success for an indisposed tenor as Count Almaviva / Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Teatro Carcano in Milan. Subsequently he sang in Turin, Bologna and Genoa before returning to England in 1925, having developed an Italianate style of singing that remained with him throughout his professional life.
Lilian Baylis engaged Nash for the Old Vic Company to sing operatic roles in English. He made his debut in 1925 as the Duke / Rigoletto, for which he won high critical praise, and went on to sing Tonio / The Daughter of the Regiment, Pinkerton / Madame Butterfly, Tamino / The Magic Flute and the title part in Gounod’s Faust, which he recorded with Beecham conducting between 1929 and 1930. After a season with Baylis, Nash joined the British National Opera Company, appearing both in London and on tour in roles such as Fenton / Falstaff, Des Grieux / Manon, Romeo / Romeo and Juliet and David / The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.
Nash made his debut as Don Ottavio / Don Giovanni in the International Season at the Royal Opera House, London in 1929 and continued to appear in these seasons until the outbreak of World War II: his roles included Rodolfo / La Bohème, Eisenstein / Die Fledermaus, Pedrillo / Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Rinuccio / Gianni Schicchi as well as Almaviva, David, Pinkerton, Faust and Roméo. He also appeared in the production of the Millöcker–Mackeben operetta The Dubarry at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1932. Nash took part in the first season of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1934, singing every Ferrando / Così fan tutte, Basilio / Le nozze di Figaro and Pedrillo there between 1934 and 1938, as well as Don Ottavio in 1937.
During World War II he toured with the Carl Rosa Company as Faust, Pinkerton and Rodolfo, often singing opposite another popular favourite, the soprano Joan Hammond. He returned to the Royal Opera House after the end of the war as Des Grieux, making his final apperance there in 1948 as David, and continued to appear on stage until 1958, his last appearance being as Dr Manette in Arthur Benjamin’s opera A Tale of Two Cities at Sadler’s Wells in 1958.
In addition to his operatic work Nash was very active as a concert and oratorio singer throughout the British Isles. He was especially identified with the role of Gerontius in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, having been chosen by the composer himself to sing this in 1931: the critic Sir Neville Cardus considered him to be the finest exponent of the role. During his later years he taught at the Royal College of Music and sang his final Messiah just a few months before cancer caused his death.
A consummately stylish singer, Nash had a beautiful, liquid, honeyed tone, and the ability to endow everything that he sang with spontaneity, charm, grace and ardour.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist