Choir history

Former Conductors

Walter Deakin:1958-1981

WALTER DEAKIN – Founder, Conductor, President of the Epworth Choir, died on 2nd November, 2008 aged 96  Please click here to view Walter Deakin’s profile on the ‘Founder’ page.

Keith Williams: 1981-1982

Keith was born in London in 1956. He studied with John York and Cimbro Martin at the Guildhall School of Music and privately with John Bigg, before going to York University, where he studied conducting and piano. He worked as Graham Treacher’s assistant wit the University orchestra and Huddersfield Choral Society. He made his debut recording for EMI whilst a second year student. He went on to study in Milan with Bruno Canino and, since returning, has worked as a freelance pianist, conductor and lecturer. Performances as a pianist have included appearances at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, at Universities at Exeter, Birmingham, Keele, Southampton and Norwich; at Arts Centres in Durham, Kings Lynn, York and Cardiff and at music clubs all over the country. As a conductor he directed Monteverdi’s Orfeo with Nigel Rogers in the title role, conducted two performances of the Brahms Requiem with the New Symphony Orchestra and made his TV debut on the BBC with the Epworth Choir.

John Chapman: 1982-1989

John Chapman had extensive experience working with choirs. Whilst Musical Director of the Epworth Choir he was also directing the music at the Westminster Central Hall, as well as working with two student choirs at the London College of Music, where he was the Registrar.After leaving the Royal Academy of Music, he spent a period of time mostly conducting opera and operetta. For five years he trained all new singers who joined the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and, as a consequence, had a very specialised knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Whilst with the Epworth Choir, his chief interest was religious music. He had very strong convictions as to the place of the choir in worship and was a great believer in its ability to enhance the atmosphere and meaning of the service.

Grace Wright: 1989-1995

Grace graduated in Music at Durham University and combined a teaching career with choral singing and conducting. She had spent most of her life working with choirs in Yorkshire, Cheshire and, since 1972, in Surrey. Grace had been Musical Director of a number of local operatic productions and was closely involved in the musical activities of schools, youth organisations and churches in the Woking area. Grace was Assistant Conductor of the Epworth Choir for four years before being appointed Musical Director in 1989.

Peter Heming MVO: 1995- 2004

Conductor, composer and former Musical Director to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, Peter was born in Nottingham and studied composition, orchestration and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He appeared in concert with such music ‘tours de force’ as the Huddersfield Choral Society, Portsmouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Guildford Philharmonic, Atherstone Choral Society, London show Orchestra, Treorchy, Risca, Bolsterstone and Ystradgynais Male voice Choirs and Chichester Cathedral Choir at major venues throughout the UK, including the Royal Albert Hall. Peter recorded for both radio and television – Friday night is music night, BBC radio 2’s festival of light music and songs of praise. He had also composed over 100 songs, two musical plays and many orchestrations and collaborated with the author Carl Groves to write Trafalgar- the Nelson Story, a musical play based on the life of Admiral lord Nelson. During Epworth’s Ruby Anniversary season of concerts, Peter conducted a performance of Verdi Requiem at Guildford Cathedral.

Neil Ferris: 2004-2009

Neil graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 1998 where he specialised in performance and in 2003 gained a Master’s degree in Performance Studies at the Royal College of Music, where he specialised in choral conducting. As a violinist Neil studied with Pearl Mace, Judith Young and ultimately Julian Cummings and was awarded an ARCM in violin performing in 1997. He has been conductor of the Royal Holloway Chamber Orchestra since 1999 and has made guest appearances with Midland Sinfonia and the City of Southampton Orchestra.

Neil is now in demand as a choral animateur and workshop leader; he has taught conducting at the University of Southampton, is a visiting teacher on the ‘Choral Music in Education’ Masters programme at Roehampton University and has given Masterclasses with the Royal Holloway Chamber Choir since 2004. He has been a choir trainer at the Royal College of Music Junior Dept. since September 2005.

Neil was appointed Musical Director of the Epworth Choir in 2004 and left us in April 2009 to take up the position of Music Director with Wimbledon Choral Society later in 2009. He is also Musical Director of Concordia Voices and Assistant Conductor for the award-winning choir, Joyful Company of Singers. In 2005 Neil was invited to be Guest Conductor of the Chorus of Filarmonica Arad, Romania, a post he returned to in 2006. In April 2006 Neil was appointed Musical Director of Cardiff Polyphonic Choir and in June and July of that year he prepared them for concerts with the BBC National Orchetra of Wales under Richard Hickox and the London Mozart Players under Owain Arwel Hughes.

Neil is fortunate to have benefited from the expertise of Paul Spicer at the RCM and has studied at the Canford Summer School of Music conducting course under George Hurst. As a result of the BBC Singers Conductor Fellowship Auditions in 2004 he was awarded a masterclass with the BBC Singers and it’s Chief Conductor, Stephen Cleobury.

The choir will always be greatly indebted to Neil for his professional leadership and dedication which has resulted in many first class performances including Mendelssohn Elijah, Duruflé Requiem, Haydn Creation, Verdi Requiem, Orff Carmina Burana and culminating with Handel Messiah.

Amy Bebbington: 2010 – 2011

In 2005 Amy became a Doctor of Musical Arts specialising in Choral Conducting, having studied with Dr. John Dickson at Texas Tech University, USA. Amy tutors on the Association of British Choral Directors highly regarded Initial and Intermediate regional conducting courses. She directed the Young Choral Conductor’s Course at the ABCD conventions in Chester (2007) and Lincoln (2008). Amy has directed numerous choral ensembles in the UK and USA, and is also a choral tutor for Cranleigh Choral Week. She has worked as a choral animateur for organisations such as Glyndebourne, Youth Music and Sing for Pleasure.

As a choral singer, Amy has performed with Rodolphus, Choros Amici (BBC Choir of the Year 2000), Canzonetta and The Texas Tech University Choir, and has appeared on BBC1 and BBC Radio 3. She has performed at choral conferences in England (Birmingham Symphony Hall) and in America (San Antonio, Little Rock, Los Angeles). Her choral compositions have been performed by several British and American choral ensembles, most notably by The Joyful Company of Singers at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Choros Amici at The Wigmore Hall and the Texas Tech University Choir. Her works are published by Shawnee Press and Banks Music Publications.

Amy has appeared as piano soloist with the Huddersfield University Symphony Orchestra, at Sowerby Music Festival and The Edward German Festival. She was the repetiteur for the UK’s first all-female opera company, Opera Femina, and for Lakeland Opera, performing at Buxton Opera House and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick. She also worked as a pianist with The Shout on their community project, Sea Tongue, as part of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Matthew WillisMatthew Willis 2011 – 2014

Since graduating from the Royal College of Music, London, Matthew has conducted over 250 concerts and tours with ensembles across Europe in a wide repertoire including Vaughan-Williams – A Sea Symphony, Humperdink – Hänsel und Gretel, Gesualdo – Sabbato Sancto, Brahms – the Symphonies, Peter Maxwell Davies – An Orkney wedding with sunrise and Berlioz’s tour de force – Grande messe des morts involving over 350 musicians. He has always enjoyed working with inspiring amateur ensembles and having the pleasure of enabling these groups to excel beyond their own expectations. He has had particularly fruitful relationships with the Redhill Sinfonia, the London Lawyers’ Symphony Orchestra, the Keele Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, the Ceramic City Choir, the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra and the Salomon Orchestra.

Matthew Willis has appeared at many leading concert venues including the Laeiszhalle, Hamburg, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow, the Royal Albert Hall, the Barbican, and the Wigmore Hall, London and has been privileged to work and study with some of the world’s leading musicians including Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He has gained international recognition through participation in major conducting competitions including the Donatella Flick International Conductors Competition (2008) and the Cadaques Orchestra European Conducting Competition (2006).