Formed in 1997 as a small choir with a repertoire ranging from Bach to Britten, Monteverdi to MacMillan, The Wordsworth Singers have won critical acclaim for inspiring and pitch-perfect performances of largely unaccompanied works.
The choir's 40 singing members come from all over Cumbria and from the south of Scotland. Founder-Directors Michael Hancock and Charles Harrison were succeeded in 2004 by James Grossmith, and in 2007 by Edward Caswell. Our Director of Music since late 2009 is Mark Hindley, Chorus Master of the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, Dublin.
The Wordsworth Singers have given concerts around Cumbria and beyond, on tour to various locations including Lithuania and Latvia. In 2008 they sang at the Lake District Summer Music Festival and in 2012 on the Edinburgh Fringe. They have also been invited to perform at weddings, dinners and other events, singing music of every century from the fourteenth to the twenty-first. They have given first performances, and recorded their fourth CD in 2012.
MARK HINDLEY began his musical life as a Chorister at Lichfield Cathedral. It was here that he began to play the organ, progressing to Malvern College Before being awarded an Organ Scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge where he studied with David Sanger.
Although he initially qualified as a doctor, his passion for music enticed him away from pursuing medicine as a career. He has wide-ranging musical interests, but much of his time is spent conducting and directing. His background has led naturally to many years of close involvement in church music, holding positions at St Matthew's Church Northampton, St Paul's Cathedral in Dundee and Great St Mary's Church in Cambridge.
In 2003 he returned to Scotland to take up the position of Chorusmaster with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO). This marked a change of emphasis to working mainly in secular contexts. Training, preparing and directing the SCO Chorus, he established a close working relationship with many leading conductors, perhaps most notably the late Sir Charles Mackerras. He has also been Chorusmaster of Leeds Philharmonic Society, working closely with its Musical Director, David Hill. He led Leeds Philharmonic Chorus on successful tours to Poland and Germany including two performances of Elgar's Music Makers with 200 local singers under Jac van Steen to close the Dortmund 2010/11 season.
At the beginning of the 2012/3 season, Mark was appointed Chorus Master for the Radió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) Philharmonic Choir. This followed on from him working with the choir and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra for 3 concerts in the 2011/2 season including an acclaimed performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio in St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin with Matthew Halls. On top of a full season of core performances with RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir makes time to collaborate with other musicians. Recently this has included sellout performances with The Chieftains.
In addition to his work with symphonic choruses, since 2009, Mark has has been Musical Director of the Cumbrian chamber choir, the Wordsworth Singers, with whom he has rapidly established a reputation for adventurous programming and exciting, vibrant performances. In 2015 he also founded a new choir, the Scottish Vocal Ensemble, which draws together the finest choral singers from across Scotland and northern England.
He is in demand to work with choirs and train voices all over the UK and has worked with, amongst others, Huddersfield Choral Society, Royal Northern Sinfonia Chorus, Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, Scottish Chamber Choir, St Andrews Chorus and Angus Choral Society. Over the past 10 years, he has been at the forefront of community singing events at the new Horsecross Concert Hall in Perth and has also recently led workshops for all age groups in Falkirk, Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow and Stirling. He has also worked extensively in higher education, in particular at the University of St Andrews and the University of Cambridge.
He combines his choral work with a busy schedule as a freelance organist and harpsichordist. He has been invited to perform in many of the major venues across the UK. He has also appeared in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Poland and the USA.
Former Directors of Music
Prior to Mark Hindley's appointment, the choir has had four Directors of Music:
In the 10/11 season as well as making return visits to Netherlands Radio Choir and Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chor he worked with Choeur de l'Orchestre de Paris, Bamberg Symphony Choir and WDR Rundfunkchor (Cologne) with whom he made a recording of early twentieth century music for men's voices.
In the current season he makes return visits to MDR Rundfunkchor (Leipzig), Netherlands Radio Choir and the BBC Singers as well as working with the Danish National Choir and the Norwegian Academy of Music Chamber Choir with whom he will conduct a programme of English and Scottish music from the Renaissance and the twenty-first century. In July he will also return to the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chor Academy Lübeck
Based in Scotland, Edward teaches at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RSAMD) and the University of Glasgow. He is Outreach Director of Cappella Nova for whom he leads regular workshops and directs the course Health and Wellbeing through Song at the University of Strathclyde. He is also a council member and regular presenter for the Association of British Choral Directors.
In 1998 James was appointed Assistant Director of Music at Cranleigh School and Assistant Conductor of the Cranleigh and Godalming choral societies. He also directed the vocal octet Claritas in a number of recordings for the Etcetera label, including an award winning recording of sacred polyphony by Luca Marenzio.
In 2001 James won a scholarship for postgraduate conducting studies under Martyn Brabbins and Dr Alasdair Mitchell at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and moved to Glasgow. In July 2002 he had the opportunity to study under Alexander Policanichko of the Kirov and gave his debut performance with the State Hermitage Orchestra of St Petersburg. In 2003 he conducted a performance of Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges at the Academy and made his debut with the London Sinfonietta conducting, among other works, the Chamber Symphony by Thomas Wilson.
James was appointed Assistant Conductor for Haddo Opera’s 2003 production of Lucia di Lammermoor and subsequently became Musical Director of the company. After completing his conducting studies in July 2003, James was awarded the Hugh S Robertson prize for Orchestral Conducting, the Peter Morrison Prize for contributions to the musical life of the Academy and the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. In 2004 he completed a year of prize winning studies as a repetiteur scholar at the Academy.
James was Director of Choral Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama until the end of 2005. In January 2006 he was appointed Chorusmaster of Scottish Opera. He is Director of Chapel Music at the University of Glasgow. In addition to his work at Scottish Opera James has directed the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Opera for All, the London Sinfonietta, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the Aberdeen Sinfonietta, and the Paragon Ensemble. James continues to work with the Wordsworth Singers as a guest conductor. His personal website is www.jamesgrossmith.com
Charles Harrison combines a career as a solo and ensemble player with the post of Assistant Director of Music at Lincoln Cathedral, one of Europe's great mediaeval buildings. Here he directs one of the choirs and plays the famous 'Father' Henry Willis organ of 1898.
His love of organ and choral music began during his time as a cathedral chorister. In 1992, he became Organ Scholar of Jesus College Cambridge, where he obtained a degree in music and studied organ with David Sanger. During his second year at Cambridge, he was awarded prizes for his playing in the Fellowship examinations of the Royal College of Organists. Charles went on to win prizes at the international organ competitions in St Albans (1999) and Odense (2000), since when he has maintained a schedule of solo concerts in the UK and internationally. His concerto work has included performances with the Irish Chamber Orchestra directed by Stephen Cleobury (in the opening concert of the Belfast Festival), and the Ulster Orchestra conducted by John Lubbock. Both concerts were broadcast by the BBC. Charles Harrison has performed in many prestigious venues in Britain and Ireland, including Kings College Cambridge, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Royal Albert Hall (during the 2010 Proms season), Symphony Hall Birmingham, St David's Hall Cardiff, the Ulster Hall and the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Further afield, he has featured in recital series at Copenhagen Cathedral, Marktkirche Hannover, Jesuskirke Copenhagen, Hooglandse Kerk Leiden, Grote Kerk Harderwijk and St Bavo Catholic Cathedral Haarlem. With David Leigh, he has released a commercial recording of organ duets and arrangements.
As a continuo and orchestral keyboard player, Charles Harrison has worked with, among others, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC Singers and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, performing frequently on Radio 3. In addition to his regular duties as a choral trainer and director at Lincoln Cathedral, he conducts performances of some of the great baroque oratorios with period-instrument groups (which have included Charivari Agréable). Charles's organ students benefit from his broad stylistic knowledge and wide-ranging repertoire: some have won scholarships at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; others have gone on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music.
Charles Harrison occasionally composes and arranges music. In 2007 he was commissioned by the RAF to write a military march in Russian, German and English styles to commemorate the end of the Cold War. Some of his arrangements will feature in a recording on the Priory label to be released late in 2013.
Charles was assistant organist of Carlisle Cathedral for four years from 1995 and, with Michael Hancock, is a Founder Conductor of The Wordsworth Singers, having jointly lead the choir for seven years. He continues to work with the choir from time to time as conductor and accompanist.
Michael Hancock enjoys a hugely varied musical career. Since graduating from the Northern School of Music in 1972 he has performed all over the UK and in many foreign parts as a pianist, singer and conductor.
As an accompanist and chamber music player he has partnered many eminent musicians such as April Cantelo, Christopher Underwood, Joan Rodgers, Martin Milner, Janet Hilton, Julian Lloyd Webber, Willard White, Laurence Perkins and John Turner. He has served on the staff of the Royal Northern College and Chethams and has performed in many prestigious venues like the Purcell Room, the Wigmore Hall and the London Palladium. Michael has many commercial recordings to his credit, including discs for Hyperion, Pickwick and Campion. He has broadcast for Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 as well as Classic FM and there have been numerous TV appearances.
Along with Charles Harrison, Michael is a Founder Conductor of the Wordsworth Singers, a post he held for seven years, and he is currently their President. A much sought-after teacher of piano and singing, Michael also finds time to adjudicate Music Festivals and he is an Examiner for ABRSM, for whom he also acts as a trainer and moderator. Examining tours have taken him all over the world including Iceland, Malaysia, the Middle East, Turkey, Brunei, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Spain, the Caribbean, Greece, USA, Canada and the Seychelles.
Michael also acted as vocal coach to the choir of Carlisle Cathedral from 1991 to 2010. In July 2007 he conducted the opening concert of the Carlisle International Summer Festival with the Festival Chorus, the Northern Sinfonia and daughter Emma playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto.
In July Michael will accompany Joan Rodgers in the Kathleen Ferrier Centenary Concert in Carlisle.
A new CD will be released in 2013 to celebrate a 50 year artistic partnership with actor Andrew Leggott. This disc also features soprano Fiona Weakley.