Image aboe: Petros Singers on the steps of St Geroge’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, 2018
Forty years of singing secular and sacred choral music
The Petros Singers are holding a special 40th anniversary concert on Saturday 1 July at St Peter’s Church in Hammersmith. The concert will include the world premiere of a work they have specially commissioned from award-winning composer and west-London resident, Kerensa Briggs.
Petros Singers describe themselves as ‘West London’s leading amateur chamber choir’. They perform a wide variety of music, ‘from baroque to contemporary, from large scale works to exquisite miniatures – placing particular emphasis on vibrant and communicative singing.’
Their repertoire is often idiosyncratic, they say, as they tend to eschew the more obvious canonical works to shine a light on forgotten masterpieces and rate choral treasures, encouraged in this approach by their Musical Director Richard Bannan.
Image above: Music Director Richard Bannan
High standards set by a succession of high achieving Musical Directors
Richard is a baritone, conductor and teacher, who since taking over as musical director in 2016 has conducted Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Handel’s Belshazzar and Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, in addition to a wide variety of smaller works including a Tallis collaboration with The Marian Consort.
The choir has also hosted workshops with illustrious musicians such as James Vivian, organist & Director of Music at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and Rory McCleery, founder and musical director of The Marian Consort, which performs across the UK and Europe.
Richard is a Lay Clerk of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He began singing at an early age as a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, before reading Music at Clare College, Cambridge where he was a music scholar. He has conducted for the Yehudi Menuhin School, where he notably conducted a programme of works by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in front of the composer.
He has worked with a number of school choirs with reputations for excellence. Currently he is head of singing at King’s College School, Wimbledon, as well as pursuing a career as a soloist and consort singer.
Image above: Petros Singers taking part in a workshop – JS Bach Mass in B Minor led by David Bates,October 2022
Richard is the latest in a succession of ambitious and high-achieving musical directors. The group first came together in 1983 when some members of St Peter’s Church wanted to form a group to sing more secular works. They were joined by a group of like-minded singers from Ealing and, as the choir grew in size, they decided to change the name from the original St Peter’s Singers to Petros Singers to better reflect the more secular nature of the choir.
The choir’s first musical director was Chris Bracewell, a very experienced choral conductor. After a few years he moved on and Michael Emery was appointed as his successor, who led the choir until 2005 when his career as a senior producer with the BBC Singers took him to other places.
Michael was succeeded by organist Duncan Aspden, now Director of Music with the City of Oxford choir, who stayed with Petros Singers for ten years until summer 2015 when Richard Bannan took over. Libby Burgess, pianist, coach and artistic director well known to BBC Radio 3 audiences, has also acted as temporary musical director for a term.
Commissioning a piece of work by Kerensa Briggs
With such high standards, what could they do to celebrate their fortieth anniversary? They usually do four concerts a year, including both secular and sacred works, and although St Peter’s is their home base, they have performed in venues such as Saint James’s Piccadilly, accompanied by the London Baroque chamber orchestra, the Guards’ Chapel in Birdcage Walk and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
They have performed two concerts in the presence of members of the royal family. How to top that? Or match it even? On a number of occasions the choir has given the first public performance of works either commissioned by them or composed with them in mind, so they decided to ask Kerensa Briggs to compose something for them and to say home to perform her work.
Kerensa is an award-winning composer specialising in choral music. She was winner of the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award 2014 and is a member of the ‘Illuminate’ women’s music project. She is currently Composer in Residence for St Louis Chamber Chorus.
Her music has been described as ‘poignant, ambivalent, quietly devastating music’ in the New York Times. It is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and BBC Radio Scotland by ensembles such as The Tallis Scholars and the BBC Singers, and has been performed internationally at venues including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel.
Image aboev: A Summer Landscape (1883) by Georges Seurat
The Passing of the Years: 40th-anniversary concert
The Passing of the Years: 40th-anniversary concert will feature the premiere of an exciting new work commissioned from Kerensa along with Jonathan Dove’s song cycle, The Passing of the Year, and some old favourites including Brahms, Chilcott, Pearsall and Rachmaninoff.
Petros Singers raises money through collections a their concerts for London Youth Choirs and they are delighted that LYC West and their director Olivia Shotton will be joining them for their 40th anniversary.
The Passing of the Years: 40th-anniversary concert is on Saturday 1 July at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church, Black Lion Lane, Hammersmith W6 9BE. Tickets £20 / £17 concessions / £5 for under 28s.
Book tickets here: The Passing of the Years: 40th-anniversary concert – Petros Singers
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