Director: Simon Lindley
St Peter's Singers is a mixed choir of about forty voices based in the City of Leeds, directed by Dr Simon Lindley. For forty years the Singers have enjoyed a close relationship with Leeds Minster (St Peter-at-Leeds), formerly, of course, Leeds Parish Church, where many concerts and liturgical appearances take place each season. At the same time, the choir performs at many other venues in and around Leeds, including Leeds Town Hall, St Anne's Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Minster Churches of Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax and Leeds. York Minster has been the venue for three memorable presentations in recent years, and the choir sang Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Monday in 2005 and 2008, and at Guildford Cathedral on Spring Bank Holiday Saturday in 2011. Other Cathedrals visited recently have included Derby, Ely, Leicester, Ripon and Worcester. Tours overseas have taken the Singers to Romania in 2007, Mallorca in 2009 and 2013 and Brittany in 2011, Germany and Holland in 2015 and East Anglia in 2017.
The choir sustains an enviable reputation for the performance of standard baroque choral works involving the presentation of major repertoire by Bach and Handel in association with St Peter's Chamber Orchestra and, on occasion, with the National Festival Orchestra. Messiah and the Mass in B Minor are regularly presented as well as Bach's two great Passion settings. Other masterpieces by Monteverdi, Mozart and Haydn are not neglected, and in 2000, 2007 and 2009 Elgar's Dream of Gerontius received memorably passionate and critically acclaimed performances on the Good Friday of the years in question. The Good Friday concerts in 2010 and 2011 each included a Stabat Mater setting - that of Haydn in the former year being partnered with his Teresa Mass and in 2011 that by Dvorak with Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens. On Good Friday 2012, there was a memorable complete presentation of Handel's Messiah in honour of the centenary of Bradford-born legendary musicologist Dr Watkins Shaw, OBE, whose trail-blazing edition of the work was used then, and in 2017, the year of the 275th anniversary of the work's first performance in Dublin in 1742.
But the choir is equally at home in a cappella and organ-accompanied programmes blending Renaissance masterpieces with modern English repertoire, commissioning a fine Stabat Mater from Francis Jackson. SPS has also become well-known for its revival of two major monodramas by actor-dramatist John Stuart Anderson with music by Francis Jackson (Daniel in Babylon, available on Amphion PHI 145 and A Time of Fire - a fascinating account of the life and times of biblical translator William Tyndale, on Amphion PHI 146). A Time of Fire was performed in Ely Cathedral in Summer 2004, and in Derby Cathedral in 2005, the latter being attended by the composer.
Welcome collaborations with other choirs have included participation in the memorable 40th anniversary celebrations of the Chapter House Choir of York under the direction of Stephen Williams, formerly a member of St Peter's Singers and now a leading choral conductor and Director of Music at Uppingham. A very happy association has been sustained with Dr Donald Hunt and the Elgar Chorale of Worcester and the members of St Peter's Singers have visited Worcester Cathedral several times in the past few years for major Elgar concerts in the Elgar anniversaries of 2007 and 2009; most recently, SPS took part in The Dream of Gerontius at Worcester in Spring 2010 as the closing concert in the 50th Bromsgrove Festival.
In recent years the choir has undertaken a number of recordings, notably One Equal Music, a critically-acclaimed CD of spiritual music recorded in the Victoria Quarter at the hearts of Leed's thriving commercial zone.
Previous recordings including Christopher Rathbone's fine Requiem (Amphion PHI 505), Madrigals and other pieces from Castle Howard (Amphion PHI 225) and a set of new pieces on a promotional CD for Banks Music Publications, including Stephen Wilkinson's Rorate Coeli and John Powell's lively Welcome Yule. Additionally, the choir has recorded two editions of BBC Radio 2's Sunday Half Hour and participated in live broadcasts of BBC Radio 4's Sunday Worship in commemoration of the Centenary of the English Hymnal in 2006 and, in August 2010, on the weekend of the 200th Birthday of the great Samuel Sebastian Wesley, first Organist of Leeds Parish Church who served here from 1842 to 1849..
2016 was memorable for two recitals in particular. On Good Friday, Brahms' German Requiem was preceded by two of his motets and then a heart-stopping performance of Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending played by David Greed, leader of the Orchestra of Opera North. In October the choir gave a well-received first performance of Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir, alongside Vaughan Williams' Mass in G Minor to a large audience in Leeds Town Hall. 2017 also marked the untimely passing of our long-time friend and former member Kate Woodruff, who we remembered in our presentation of Messiah on Good Friday 2017.
2017 saw the choir celebrate its 40th anniversary in style, with memorable recitals in Leeds Town Hall and in Leeds Minster, followed by a performance of Handel's Coronation Anthems and Anthem on the Peace in Holy Trinity, Boar Lane, a tour of East Anglia, participation as the semi-chorus in Howells's Hymnus Paradisi at Leeds Town Hall under the direction of Dr David Hill on Saturday 26 November, joining with Leeds Philharmonic Chorus and the Leeds College of Music Student Chorale, and finally a concert of Christmas Music at Fulneck Moravian CHurch, which also hosted the annual Baroque Festival concert on August Bank Holiday and a recital of the music as we prepared for the tour. The 40th Anniversary recital at Leeds Minster on 25th June, attended by many friends and former members, included music by E J Moeran, Palestrina [his Missa Brevis] and Bach's Ascension Oratorio - all sung at the very first concert in Summer 1977. 2017 was tinged with sadness at the passing in the early summer of Jan Holdstock, great figure in musical education, composer and animateur extraordinaire of music for young people, and a long-serving alto member as well as one who acted as the Choir's Secretary for a number of years. The Good Friday 2018 presentation of Bach's Mass in B Minor is dedicated to her memory.
2018 has begun with a fine recital in Leeds Town Hall of a fine programme which, alongside works by former Leeds Parish Church organists SS Wesley adn Edward Bairstow, included the Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Bairstow's successor at York, Philip Moore, who we were delighted to welcome to the Town Hall. The recital marked the retirement of Tim Burleigh as Chair od St Peter's Singers after 11 years of dedicated service and commitment. Quentin Brown takes over, assisted by Sally Scott.