History

Wooburn Singers was founded by Richard Hickox in 1967.

Richard was Music Director of Opera Australia (Sydney) from 2005. From 2000-2006 he was Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, before becoming Conductor Emeritus. He founded the City of London Sinfonia in 1971 of which he was Music Director and he was also Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Northern Sinfonia, and co-founder of Collegium Musicum 90.

He regularly conducted the major UK orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra in a number of semi-staged operas; he gave the first ever complete cycle of Vaughan Williams symphonies in London with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and conducted series of Elgar, Walton and Britten with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

His phenomenal success in the recording studio resulted in nearly 300 recordings, including the Britten operas with the City of London Sinfonia (Chandos Records) and numerous recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Richard was awarded a CBE in 2002, and received many other awards including two Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, a Grammy and four Gramophone Awards, the first ever Sir Charles Groves Award, the Evening Standard Opera Award, and the Association of British Orchestras award.

Richard conducted the choir until the end of 1985, when the pressure of his expanding international career became too great; but he accepted the position of President, and remained in close touch with the choir until his untimely death in 2008.

In 1986 he was succeeded as Music Director by Stephen Jackson, who combined the appointment with that of Director of the BBC Symphony Chorus. During this time the choir collaborated in several BBC concerts, including Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, and also began biennial foreign tours, visiting Venice, Paris and Prague.

Jeremy Backhouse became Musical Director in 1998, directing a number of major works and themed concerts, and leading the choir on successful tours to Tuscany, Geneva and Barcelona.

Greg Beardsell took over as Music Director in April 2005, and has consolidated the choir’s reputation as the premier chamber choir in the South Bucks area, giving memorable performances of major works of the choral repertoire including Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St John Passion, as well as eclectic concerts of a capella repertoire ranging from the 14th to the 21st centuries (often in the same concert!).

In May 2007 the choir celebrated its 40th anniversary with a gala concert reflecting some of the works introduced to the choir by each of the four Music Directors, and followed by a reception at which all four were present, as well as many former members of the choir.

The first four music directors of the Wooburn Singers at the 40th Anniversary Party in May 2007. Left to right: Greg Beardsell, Stephen Jackson, Richard Hickox and Jeremy Backhouse.
The first four music directors of the Wooburn Singers at the 40th Anniversary Party in May 2007. Left to right: Greg Beardsell, Stephen Jackson, Richard Hickox and Jeremy Backhouse.

The choir was devastated to hear of the sudden death of Richard Hickox at the end of 2008, and gave a concert in his memory in March 2009 at which his mother Jean (a founder member of the choir) was the guest of honour. In April 2012 the choir sang (at her request) at Jean’s funeral.

Under Greg’s leadership the biennial tours continued, with visits to Krakow (Poland) in 2007, Segovia (Spain) in 2009, Malta in 2011, and Tallinn and St Petersburg in 2013.

Wooburn Singers hosts Come & Sing days twice a year, open to all choral singers, giving the opportunity to experience in informal workshop conditions choral pieces such as the Verdi Requiem and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. The choir is also in demand for other concerts and functions: for the last six years the choir has sung for the Christmas concert of the Royal Society of Medicine, and in October 2010 was invited by the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Lady Howe, to sing at her Shrieval Service.

Greg Beardsell stood down as Music Director in the summer of 2013, giving his last concerts with the choir on the tour in St Petersburg; at his farewell UK concert in St Lawrence’s Church, West Wycombe, the choir gave the first performance of Three prayers, with a vision of light, commissioned from contemporary composer Gabriel Jackson to mark Greg’s time with the choir.

Wooburn Singers welcomed Tom Hammond-Davies as the new Music Director in September 2013.  The choir is fortunate to have such a fine musician continuing the tradition of choral excellence started by Richard Hickox.