SIMON HALSEY CBE – CHORUS DIRECTOR
Simon Halsey is a sought-after conductor of choral repertoire at the very highest level and an ambassador for choral singing across the world. Since 2001 he has been Principal Conductor of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the permanent partner of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In the UK, Halsey has been Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Choruses for over 30 years and, in 2012, was appointed Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus. In this new position, Halsey leads choral activities across the LSO’s performance and education programmes.
Simon Halsey is also Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Youth Choral Programme, as well as Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir. Since 2014 he has been Artistic Advisor of the Choir Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. Making singing a central part of these world-class institutions, Halsey has been instrumental in changing the level of symphonic singing across Europe. Since becoming Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus in 2012, Halsey has been credited with bringing about a “spectacular transformation” (Evening Standard) of the LSC. In 2014/15 the LSO and LSC perform Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri with Sir Simon Rattle. In addition to its work with the LSO, the choir joins the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Alan Gilbert for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the BBC Proms, and the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena for Beethoven’s Fidelio in Manchester. In 2014 Halsey also conducted the LSC in a series of a cappella concerts across the UK, including Tallis’s Spem in alium and Rachmaninov’s Vespers.
In August 2014 Simon Halsey was invited by the British Government to conduct a combined choir from the LSC and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival at a commemoration ceremony to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery. In February 2015 Halsey brings together the CBSO Chorus and LSC to perform Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with the Berliner Philharmoniker at London’s Royal Festival Hall, celebrating Sir Simon Rattle’s 60th birthday. Under Halsey’s leadership, the Rundfunkchor Berlin has gained a reputation internationally as one of the finest professional choral ensembles. Halsey has also initiated innovative projects in unconventional venues and interdisciplinary formats, such as human requiem (after Brahms) in collaboration with dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests, which – in addition to performances at Radialsystem V in Berlin – tours to Rotterdam this season. Other highlights of 2014/15 include performances of Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Together with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Rundfunkchor Berlin tours Bach’s St Matthew Passion to New York as part of the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, in Peter Sellars’s acclaimed staging, following performances at the Lucerne Festival and BBC Proms.
In addition to its work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus is in high demand, working with other first-rate orchestras and leading conductors. Recent and upcoming highlights include performances with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgårds and with the Czech Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek. With the CBSO in Birmingham, the 2014/15 season includes the UK premiere of James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion and a concert performance of Wagner’s Parsifal. At the CBSO Halsey has also founded a Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus, as well as two community choirs in Birmingham and the surrounding area.
As Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Youth Choral Programme Vokalhelden (‘Vocal Heroes’), Halsey leads a long-term education and performance project that brings together children from diverse backgrounds from all over Berlin. This season they perform the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Was lauert da im Labyrinth (The Monster in the Maze), conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. In London, the LSO Youth Choir and Community Choir perform the UK premiere of Dove’s new opera, as part of Halsey’s LSO Sing programme. In June 2014 Simon Halsey conducted the world premiere of David Lang’s Crowd Out, a community work for 1,000 voices, with performances in Birmingham, Berlin and London. Halsey’s BBC Proms Youth Choir, which is formed of young singers from all over the UK, performed Britten’s War Requiem with the CBSO and Andris Nelsons in August 2014. Simon Halsey is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham, where he directs a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting, in association with the CBSO. Halsey is in great demand as a teacher at other universities and has presented masterclasses at top universities such as Princeton and Yale. In 2011 Schott Music published his book and DVD on choral conducting, Chorleitung: Vom Konzept zum Konzert, as part of its ‘Master Class’ series.
Halsey has worked on numerous recording projects, many of which have won major awards, including the Gramophone Award, Diapason d’Or and Echo Klassik. He has won three Grammy Awards for his recordings with the Rundfunkchor Berlin: 2007, 2008 (Best Choral Performances) and 2011 (Best Opera Performance). As part of a new relationship with Deutsche Grammophon, Halsey and the Rundfunkchor Berlin recorded Spheres with violinist Daniel Hope, as well as Morgenlicht, a choir-only recording of German hymns, both released in 2013. Highlights of his discography with the CBSO Chorus on EMI Classics include Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with CBSO, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle; and Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with CBSO, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and Arleen Auger.
Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and of King’s College, Cambridge. He studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1987, he founded with Graham Vick the City of Birmingham Touring Opera (now Birmingham Opera Company). He was Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir from 1997 to 2008 and was also Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia’s Choral Programme from 2004 to 2012. Halsey was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany, and holds three honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom. He was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music 2014 and a CBE IN 2015. Simon Halsey is represented by Intermusica.
BENJAMIN FROST - ACCOMPANIST
Benjamin studied music at Exeter University, graduating with Distinction in performance, was Organ Scholar at Exeter Cathedral and became an associate of the Royal College of Organists. After university he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where his tutors included Gordon Back and Graham Johnson, and trained as a repetiteur at the National Opera Studio. He has worked with the BBC, Lesley Garrett, Nelly Miricioiu, Marianne Cornetti, Sally Matthews, English National Opera and The Opera Group on several productions including Die Fledermaus, Carmen, Madam Butterfly, Cosi fan tutte, Magic Flute, La Boheme, La Cenerentola and Eugene Onegin.
His experience as an accompanist and chorus master ranges from silent films at the Queen Elizabeth Hall to The Boy Friend, Cabaret, Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and several rarely performed operas with Chelsea Opera Group. He has also accompanied the London Philharmonic Chorus, the BBC Singers, the BBC Symphony Chorus and the Monteverdi Choir.
He is currently working as a freelance repetiteur and until 2011 was Assistant Director of Music at St. Luke’s, Chelsea, where John Ireland and John Goss were organists. He has also appeared on In Tune for Radio 3 and Operatunity for Channel 4. He has given many organ recitals, including Exeter and Bristol Cathedrals and Westminster Abbey. His conducting experience includes Mozart's Coronation Mass with Stanley Hall Opera and The Barber of Seville and Don Pasquale with Opera A La Carte. In 2014, he played for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on Stravinsky’s one act chamber opera, Renard. He worked with Philharmonia Voices on A Prussian Requiem, a new oratorio by
John Powell, composer of How to Train Your Dragon. On Christmas Day, he accompanied the winning carols for Classic FM in King’s College Chapel Cambridge with Stephen Cleobury. In 2015, he accompanied Rebecca Front on Radio 4 for With Great Pleasure.
In 2017, he was appointed Chorus Accompanist of the London Symphony Chorus. He recently worked with the BBC Singers on The Last Supper by Birtwistle.
MATTHEW HAMILTON - ASSOCIATE CHORUS DIRECTOR
Matthew Hamilton is regularly invited to work with leading symphonic choirs, including London Symphony Chorus - where he is an Associate Chorus Director - BBC Symphony Chorus, and CBSO Chorus; and with chamber choirs including New London Chamber Choir - where he is Musical Director - BBC Singers, ChorWerk Ruhr, and Manchester Chamber Choir. Additionally, he is director of Reading Bach Choir, Keele Bach Choir, and Salford Choral Society.
Matthew read music at Oxford, before taking a Masters degree in composition at the University of Manchester. He won a full scholarship to study choral conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, graduating in 2010. In addition he participated in masterclasses with some of Europe’s finest professional choirs, including Berlin Radio Choir and Netherlands Chamber Choir. In 2010 he was the winner of the Bramstrup Conducting Award in Denmark. Matthew has prepared choirs for conductors including Fabio Luisi, Valery Gergiev, Charles Dutoit, Thierry Fischer, David Robertson, John Wilson and Mark Minkowski, and for festivals including the BBC Proms, where he has worked on music from Birtwistle to the Pet Shop Boys. He works frequently with the BBC Singers, and has conducted them in concert at the Barbican, live on Radio 3 and for TV, and in the recording studio. He has premiered a number of a cappella works by composers including Nico Muhly, Eriks Esenvalds and Gabriel Jackson. Current and future events include a series of concerts with ChorWerk Ruhr in Germany, his first concert with New London Chamber Choir at Wiltons Music Hall, and his debut at Manchester’s Bridgwater Hall conducting Duruflé Requiem with organist Wayne Marshall.
NIA LLEWELYN JONES
Nia Llewelyn Jones grew up in North Wales where singing and choral music played a central part in her musical upbringing. After reading music at Robinson College, Cambridge, she won a full scholarship to study with Simon Halsey on his collaborative course between the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the University of Birmingham. She has subsequently worked extensively with ensembles of all ages, appearing frequently with the symphonic choruses of the CBSO and London Symphony Orchestra. Nia has also been involved in numerous youth and choral education projects, working with The Sage, Gateshead’s Education division, the CBSO’s choral forces, and Learning and Participation department. She is the first to hold the position of Singing Development Leader at Gloucester Cathedral. In addition to working with all the Cathedral’s resident choirs, her remit is enthusing and inspiring children and young people of the Diocese to sing. Nia has been appointed Conductor of the National Youth Choir of Wales for 2015, leading the choir on their tour of Buenos Aires and Patagonia to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the first Welsh settlement.