Collegium Singers

Peter became Musical Director of Collegium Singers  in January 2008. His first concert featured the six-part Requiem by Tomas Luis de Victoria:

Review excerpt, March 2008

It was the Camerata debut of musical director Peter Leech. He brings with him an impressive track record in choral conducting and musical scholarship, and fully lived up to expectations. He drew a distinctive sound from the choir and his movements are clear but with a fluidity which effectively shapes all the subtleties of the music lines. He sought a forward and focussed sound which worked for me – I was reminded of upfront primary colours of Spanish organs. It is to Peter Leech and Taunton Camerata’s credit that they devised a concert which proved to be most satisfying in repertoire, length and performance. Ian Carson, Somerset County Gazette

Collegium Singers have earned a reputation for innovative and challenging programmes, and Peter has maintained this with performances that have included a broad range of choral works, from rare Renaissance polyphony by composers active at Treviso Cathedral in the sixteenth century to ‘West Gallery’ music by provincial Georgian composers and chansons by Sermisy and Janequin.

Taunton Camerata – December 2008

Music lovers of Taunton should be aware that a new luminary has arisen over the musical landscape.  Peter Leech, conductor, singer, recitalist, broadcaster, musicologist and, since early this year, musical director of Taunton Camerata, is set to raise this admirable choir to ever greater heights.  North Curry church was packed to the doors for this Christmas concert, devised in Peter’s inimitable style. After singing the first verses of the opening carol, O Remember Adam’s Fall, from the back of the church, the choir then processed up the aisles, all humming loudly, before ranging themselves under the tower to finish the carol.  Here they joined the Frideswide Ensemble of Oxford, playing historical instruments. These excellent musicians accompanied many of the carols and also played the Christmas Concerto (Op. 6, no. 8) by Arcangelo Corelli, and the Pastoral Symphony from the Messiah. The carols chosen were largely of the 18th century and in several cases had familiar words set to an unfamiliar tune or the reverse: well-known tune, different words.  Audience participation was important with four carols to sing under Peter’s inspirational baton. There was a sense of mounting excitement among the appreciative audience as they came to realize that this concert really was something different. Shirley Beck, Somerset County Gazette

 

More recently, the choir has promoted British choral music with a programme of works by Herbert Howells, Ian Higginson and David Bednall:

Central to the programme were three contrasting settings of the Evensong canticles, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. Herbert Howells’ St Paul’s Service, a masterpiece written for the vast spaces and 12-second echo of that cathedral, enabled the choir to sustain long melodic lines and revel in lush post-Romantic harmony (no mean achievement in the somewhat less opulent acoustic of a school chapel). Ian Higginson’s setting was immediately attractive and accessible, with modal tunes and perky syncopation. David Bednall’s own Gloucester Service revealed a distinctive musical personality, rooted in tradition but with many original rhythmic and harmonic features; this stretched the choir up to – and occasionally beyond! – the limit. The composer, at the organ, provided agile and sensitive accompaniment; he also played with great panache one of his works for solo organ, ‘Magna voce cano et magno cum jubilo’, in which the contemporary French organ style seems to collide with jazz piano – with entirely satisfying results.

Of particular interest was the technically demanding but highly effective ‘Set Me As A Seal’ by conductor Peter Leech; the choir delivered the close harmonic clusters with warmth and confidence, and Catherine Bass was the sweet-toned soloist. Andrew Carter

Russian Orthodox Choral works:

Glistening snow outside and hundreds of flickering candles inside created a perfect setting in St. John’s Church, Wellington for the Collegium Singers’ Christmas concert of Russian choral music ‘Cherubim & Seraphim’.  The opening was sheer magic – despite being spread around the walls behind and beside the audience, the perfect ensemble and beautifully blended sound of the twenty singers in Bortynansky’s ‘Tyebe poyem’  told us we were in for an evening of fine music making.

And so it was – an adventurous mixture of familiar pieces and others I would say totally unknown to most of us.  Director Peter Leech’s concert pre-concert talk was a fascinating insight into the social, religious and political environs of the music and composers, and the music ranged over nearly two centuries.  Unaccompanied throughout, the choir’s sound was clear and sonorous despite the small number of singers. The clean ensemble sound only very occasionally slipped in the upper parts, due I am sure to sheer fatigue at times.

In the most familiar pieces, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom’, and the excerpts from Rachmaninov’s ‘Vespers’, I was impressed by the careful attention to dynamics, so important in these works.  In all of the music, the vital bass line was particularly fine and all the singers seemed equally at home in traditional folk idiom or severe Orthodox harmonies.

This was a lovely concert, well sung in an appropriate ambience and deserved the long and enthusiastic applause. Harold W. Mead

Visit the Collegium Singers website for more reviews and details of future concerts

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