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, now Chorus Master of Scottish Opera, and in 2007 by Edward Caswell, respected choral director and teacher in the UK and abroad. Our Director of Music since the beginning of 2010 is Mark Hindley, who is also Chorus Master of Leeds Philharmonic Society.
The Wordsworth Singers have given concerts around Cumbria and beyond, on tour to various locations including Lithuania and Latvia, and in August 2008 they sang at the Lake District Summer Music Festival. They have also been invited to perform at weddings, dinners and other events, singing music of every century from the fifteenth to the twenty-first. They have given first performances and have recorded three CDs.
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. After many years of close involvement in church music, holding positions in Northampton and Dundee and at Great St Mary's Church in Cambridge, his return to Scotland in 2003 to take up the position of Chorusmaster with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra heralded a change to working mainly in secular contexts. Responsible for 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 directed Leeds Philharmonic Chorus on successful tours to Poland and Germany, including two performances of Elgar's The Music Makers to close the Dortmund 2010/11 season.
Mark was appointed Chorus Master for the Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) Philharmonic Choir for three years commencing with the 2012/3 season. 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. His first full season with RTÉ Philharmonic Choir came to a close in party mood with sell-out performances with The Chieftains.
In addition to his work with symphonic choruses, since 2009, Mark 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. He was also appointed Musical Director of the Scottish Chamber Choir commencing at the beginning of the 2013/4 season.
Mark is in demand to work with choirs and train voices all over the UK and recently has been at the forefront of community singing events at the new Horsecross Concert Hall in Perth. He has also worked extensively in higher education.
He combines his choral work with a busy schedule as a freelance organist and harpsichordist. He has been invited to perform in many 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 is Assistant Director of Music and Sub Organist of Lincoln Cathedral, posts he has held since 2003. At Lincoln, Charles directs the choir of boys and men, and plays for many of the Cathedral's services. He is also busy as a teacher (of organ, harpsichord, harmony and counterpoint), and as a continuo and orchestral keyboard player.
Charles was a chorister and later organ scholar at Southwell Minster, then organ scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in music, and studied organ with the late David Sanger. During his second year at Cambridge, Charles won the Turpin and Durrant prizes for his performance in the Fellowship examinations of the Royal College of Organists. Charles went on to win prizes in the international organ competitions at St Albans and Odense; these successes have led to a busy programme of engagements, including concerts at many of the celebrated venues in Britain, and solo performances in France, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Iceland and Poland. Concerto work has included performances with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra, both broadcast by the BBC. In 2006, he was invited by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales to join them for a recording and broadcast of works by Florent Schmitt.
As accompanist and continuo player, Charles has worked with many leading soloists, conductors and ensembles, including Roy Goodman, Steven Isserlis, Stephen Cleobury, the BBC Singers and Andreas Scholl. As a conductor, he has directed some of the foremost period-instrument players and ensembles (including Charivari Agréable) in performances of the great baroque oratorios. In 2010, he appeared with the Ulster Orchestra at the BBC Proms, playing the mighty organ of the Royal Albert Hall. With David Leigh, Charles has recently released a disc of music for organ duet, recorded at Lincoln, and distributed by Guild records.
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.