PRESS RELEASE – Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir appoints new Musical Director

The Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir (RLSBC) is delighted to announce that Lee Dunleavy has been appointed as their sixteenth Musical Director, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Malcolm Goldring, Peter Hurford, Janet Lincé, Nigel Stark, Paul Trepte, and most recently, Christopher Cromar, who has been appointed Director of Music at St Andrews Cathedral, Aberdeen.

 

Lee Dunleavy is also Musical Director of the Northampton Bach Choir and the Wellingborough Singers, Chorus Master of the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic, and Director of Music at St Marys Church, Wellingborough.  He studied at the University of Oxford, where he held both choral and organ scholarships, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and a prize-winning holder of the Archbishops’ Certificate in Church Music.  He has held organist positions in churches in London, the Midlands, Yorkshire, and at York Minster, where he also worked with the York Musical Society, which traces its origins back to 1767.

 

Lee is a distinguished choral composer, and his works have been broadcast and recorded, as well as performed in many of Europes most prestigious concert and ecclesiastical venues.  He has also commissioned over one hundred new works for choir, organ, and piano, including works by no fewer than five Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir Stephen Cleobury, Jonathan Dove, Stephen Hough, and Sir James MacMillan.

 

Melanie Forse, the Chairman of the RLSBC, said: “I am truly excited to be welcoming Lee to work with the RLSBC, and I look forward to his plans to perform music from the Choir’s earlier directors, as well as embarking on an ambitious programme of choral music, new and old. Lee’s broad knowledge of the repertoire and his experience and enthusiasm will serve to inspire all our members to strive for a very high standard of performance.”.

 

Lee Dunleavy said: “I am honoured to have been chosen to take the helm of this historic and innovative choir, and the opportunity to build on the extraordinary work of my illustrious predecessors is a truly exciting prospect.  Taking up the mantle in the midst of these unprecedented times will mean that our first steps together will necessarily be virtual, but I hugely look forward to forging a lasting relationship with the Choir and its supporters in the months and years to come.”

 

Over the next two seasons the Choir is planning performances of major works by Bach, Brahms, Monteverdi, Mozart, Orff, and Rachmaninov, including collaborations with early music groups, youth choirs, and prize-winning pianist Colin Druce.

A Brief History of the Choir

Founded in 1939 by Dr Stanley Vann, the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir (RLSBC) is about to celebrate its 80th anniversary. Stanley Vann, whose long and successful career as a choral conductor and composer continued through to his death in 2010, conducted the Choir’s first concert, a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, in the spring of 1940. In March 2000, the RLSBC celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a triumphant concert that included one of the great English choral works, A Sea Symphony, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was appointed the first Patron and President of the Choir in 1940.

Dr Vann has been succeeded by a distinguished array of musical directors. In recent years, under the batons of Malcolm Goldring, Janet Lince, Nigel Stark and now under the baton of our new Musical Director and Conductor, Christopher Cromar, the Choir has continued to expand its repertoire, ranging from the classical, baroque and romantic periods to music of the twentieth century. Performances have included compositions by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Cherubini, Chilcott, Duruflé, Dvořak, Elgar, Fauré, Handel, Haydn, Holst, Janacek, Kodaly, Lauridsen, Mendelssohn, Monteverdi, Mozart, Orff, Rachmaninov, Rossini, Rutter, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Verdi and Walton.

The Choir has benefited from working with a number of different local orchestras, and we have a long and happy relationship with the Beauchamp Sinfonietta. We enjoy working with a range of soloists, and in 2007, a highlight for us was to share a stage with the world-famous opera star Sir John Tomlinson in a charity concert in Leamington’s Spa Centre. The Choir usually performs four concerts a year at a variety of venues in and around Leamington Spa, but concerts have also been staged in Tewkesbury Abbey, Southwell Minster, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Gloucester Cathedral, Douai Abbey, Portsmouth Guildhall, and most recently in Peterborough Cathedral.  The Choir has also performed abroad in Bruges, Ghent and Paris. The Choir aims to give performances of a high musical standard, but also believes that music making should be fun and a good way to make new friends. New members in any voice part are always welcome.

Musical Director & Conductor | Lee Dunleavy

Lee Dunleavy is a dynamic conductor, organ recitalist and composer. He read Music at Hertford College in the University of Oxford, as Organ Scholar and later Director of Chapel Music. As manager and member of the Oxford University Orchestra, he worked with such esteemed conductors as Douglas Boyd, Peter Stark, Garry Walker, and Sir Roger Norrington.

After working as Director of Music at Christ Church, Southgate, London, where he directed the choir in performances of works including Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem, Handel Messiah, and Monteverdi Vespers, he was awarded the Organ Scholarship at York Minster. He holds both the Choral Directing Diploma and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists, and is a prize-winning holder of the Archbishops’ Certificate in Church Music. He has given concert performances of the complete organ works of both Bach and Buxtehude, and is an acclaimed exponent of modern American organ music.

From 2006 to 2014 Lee held the position of Director of Music at the prominent church of All Saints Northampton, leading the one hundred members of their separate choirs of boys, girls and men, in seven choral services each week. In 2007 he was appointed Musical Director of the Northampton Bach Choir. With these choirs he has commissioned over seventy new works, including compositions by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir Stephen Cleobury, Jonathan Dove, Michael Finnissy, Stephen Hough, and Sir James MacMillan. The choirs also toured extensively, from Canada and the United States to Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Italy. Since leaving All Saints he has taken up positions as Director of Music at St Mary’s Church, Wellingborough, Chorus Master of the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic, and in 2020 was appointed Musical Director of the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir.

He is fêted for his cohesive and innovative programming, both as a solo performer, and also when directing his choruses, and has received particular acclaim for performances combining choral classics by composers including Fauré, Mozart, Rutter, and Vaughan Williams, with première performances of works by North American composers including Stephen Chatman, David Conte, Dan Forrest, and Craig Phillips. He also regularly collaborates on performances of works by composers with local connections, and his first recording with the Northampton Bach Choir includes first recordings of over twenty works by composers closely associated with Northamptonshire.

Lee has also made a number of commercial recordings, most recently Be Merry!, a joint recording of North American Christmas works with the Choirs of All Saints and the Northampton Bach Choir. With the Choirs of All Saints he also recorded Notre Père, Carol of Joy, and Omnes Sancti, and with the Northampton Bach Choir, Congaudeat, I was glad, and Requiem Reflections. He has conducted and performed on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and on BBC One, and has toured throughout Europe and North America.

He is also an active composer and his studies at university led to the award of a Britten-Pears Scholarship to study with the present Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir; this in turn led to the commissioning and performance of his first Piano Quintet at the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre, London. An arrangement of the National Anthem was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and first performed there in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Accompanist | Colin Druce

The Bach Choir is extremely fortunate to be supported in our practices and concerts by Colin Druce, professional pianist and organist. Colin trained as a professional pianist and organist with Roger Fisher (Organist and Master of the Choristers at Chester Cathedral), and later at the Birmingham Conservatoire, where he won the Ludlow Philharmonic Concerto Competition Prize.

Colin is very well known in his local area of Leamington Spa and Warwick as a concert organist and pianist, as a teacher, and as an accomplished accompanist, not least through his long association with the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir and the Warwick and Kenilworth Choral Society.

He is much in demand as a teacher of piano and organ to children and adults from beginner to diploma level, and he also enjoys teaching children to sing up to Grade 6 level.

Colin gives recitals and concerto performances at venues throughout the country as a concert organist, concert pianist and also as an accompanist. He is available for weddings in Coventry & Warwickshire, and surrounding areas as an organist or as a pianist. Colin is also an experienced performer at degree ceremonies and other events. He has a thriving private piano and organ teaching practice in Warwickshire, and gives lessons for both adults and children from complete beginners to Grade 8 and Diploma level.

For more details of Colin’s activities, please visit http://www.colindruce.co.uk

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