Peter was appointed Musical Director of Aylesbury Choral Society in 2004. Under his leadership the choir has performed well known choral masterpieces in combination with lesser known works, developing a reputation for innovative concerts in the Aylesbury Vale and North Buckinghamshire District.
In 2005 the choir performed Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem at Stowe School Chapel with the Stowe Opera Orchestra, marking sixty years since the end of the Second World War.
In 2006 the choir took part in the Mozart-Linley-Kraus Festival, organised by Peter Leech and William Davies (and in collaboration with Bertil van Boer) to mark the 250th anniversary of the births of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Thomas Linley Junior (friend of Mozart and known in his own day as the ‘English Mozart’) and Joseph Martin Kraus, (often known as the ‘Swedish Mozart’) in 1756. For further information about Thomas Linley Junior and other eighteenth-century English composers see www.english-mozart.co.uk.
Aylesbury Choral Society and the Frideswide Ensemble of Oxford performed Linley’s delightful oratorio Song of Moses with performing material edited by Davies. In the same year, marking 200 years since the death of Michael Haydn, Joseph Haydn’s illustrious but much-neglected brother, the choir performed Michael’s sublime Missa Sanctae Theresiae.
The choir’s 2007 concert of Handel’s Messiah featured a special exhibition of early Handel printed editions, including a copy of Cluer’s Admeto (1728/9), a Randall & Abell edition of Messiah (c.1770), a manuscript copy of the same work from the 1770s, and a selection of Walsh’s early prints of Handel’s solo harpsichord music form the 1730s and 1740s.
In 2008, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Battista Draghi in 1708, the choir performed his 1687 Ode to Saint Cecilia with performing material prepared and edited by leading scholar of Restoration music, Bryan White, in advance of its publication by Musica Brittanica.
March 2010 saw the choir commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Claudi Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers with a complete performance accompanied by Gonzaga Band, one of the UK’s leading ensembles for the performance of music for cornetts and sackbuts.
In April 2011 the Society will perform a feast of music from British Royal coronations, including three of Handel’s epic anthems, and a rare performance of Thomas Attwood’s spirited I was glad for choir and orchestra, first performed at the Coronation of George IV in 1821, edited by Peter Leech for this concert.
See the Aylesbury Choral Society website for more details.
Benjamin Britten – St.Nicholas, December 2009
They began with a performance of Britten’s St Nicholas for which they were joined by tenor Joseph Cornwell as Nicholas, a group of talented students from Aylesbury Grammar School – one of whom, Jacob Godivala, sang the part of the young Nicholas – and Chameleon Arts Orchestra. Joseph Cornwell is a regular performer with the choir and his characterisation of the devout and miracle-working saint, was excellent. One of the more bizarre miracles involved raising three boys who were not merely dead, but had been pickled by a butcher during a time of famine – which seems a long way from his present incarnation as a dispenser of good cheer and gifts to children! St Nicholas is an extraordinary work that intertwines the voices of the adult and boys’ choirs and, in a particularly effective passage describing his death, the choir and the soloist. The second part of the concert turned to carols – some familiar ones for audience participation, interspersed with delightful settings of old carols by 20th century composers. In honour of the 250th anniversary of the death Handel, there was also a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah chorus, for which conductor Peter Leech invited audience members to join the choir – a dozen or more did and the result was splendid! As ever, Aylesbury Choral Society sang magnificently and it was a particular delight to hear several choir members singing unaccompanied solos in one of the carols. Joss O Kelly, Bucks Herald
Antonio Vivaldi choral works, April 2008
Aylesbury Choral Society was on superlative form for a packed out concert at St Mary’s Church. First up of the choral works was the familiar Gloria conducted at breakneck speed by Peter Leech; no problem for the orchestra but neither was it for the substantial forces of the choir. After the interval came the lost setting of the Dixit Dominus (RV807) which was only rediscovered three years ago. This is a significant piece of music which ranks with Vivaldi’s best choral works. The choir rose to the occasion with some fabulous singing [and] overall this concert was one of the best given by Aylesbury Choral Society in recent years. Joss O’Kelly, Bucks Herald