The challenge with an amateur choir is to combine a sociable and friendly environment while raising the choir’s standard of singing. With this in mind, the choir holds a number of social events each year – barbecues, quiz suppers and a Christmas and summer party. The choir has visited Le Pecq, just outside Paris, with which Barnes has strong cultural links: we have performed there on two occasions as part of the town’s Music Festival and made a repeat visit in 2013. We hope to sing there again in 2017.
As well as our regular concerts, we sing occasionally for local events, most recently at Petersham Nurseries for their pre-Christmas shopping evening:
"On behalf of everyone at Petersham Nurseries I wanted to send you, Julian and the entire Barnes Choir a huge thank you for joining us last night. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It was an absolute delight to hear you .....thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended the evening."
We audition prospective members who need to be able to demonstrate good vocal and musical capabilities. Sight-reading is useful, but not a requirement.
Our conductor and musical director is Julian Collings and our accompanist is Elspeth Wilkes.
Choir History and Conductors
The Barnes Choir was established in 1952 and performed under the leadership of Ron Peck until his death in 1973. Peter Gellhorn became the conductor from 1973 until 2000, when Andrew Charity took over. Our conductor from 2013 is Julian Collings.
Julian Collings - Musical Director
Julian was educated as an organ scholar at Tonbridge School in Kent, before winning an organ scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1999. He gained the associateship diploma of the Royal College of Organists whilst still at Tonbridge studying under Thomas Trotter and Sarah Baldock. He continued his organ studies in Cambridge with David Sanger, graduating with a music degree in the summer of 2002. During his time at Christ’s, Julian accompanied the college choir on tour to Scandinavia, the USA and Canada both as organist and conductor, as well as playing on a number of critically-acclaimed CD releases.
Julian is currently Director of Music at St Cyprian's Church, Clarence Gate and regularly deputises as an organist at St Bride’s Church on Fleet Street. In addition to his church work, Julian is Musical Director of the London chamber choir Ad Libitum, repetiteur to the East London Chorus and Musical Director of the Contempo Ensemble, a professional vocal group promoting the choral works of living composers. He is organ tutor at Forest School and teaches privately throughout the London area. In January 2012 he was appointed a Musical Director of Singingworks.
As a recitalist he has performed extensively both in the UK and overseas as well as broadcasting for BBC radio. Recent recital engagements have included Sheffield Cathedral, St Alban’s Abbey and St John’s College Cambridge as well as a number of recitals around the Channel Islands, France and Estonia. As organist with Svyati Duo, he regularly collaborates with cellist, Rebecca Hewes, performing concerts in the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States.
Elspeth Wilkes - Assistant Conductor & Accompanist
Elspeth is in much demand as a pianist, accompanist and repetiteur.
As a pianist, she has performed at many venues including St John’s Smith Square, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, St James’ Piccadilly, Southwark Cathedral and St Giles’ Cathedral Edinburgh. She has also worked with The Royal Ballet, BBC Wales and Southbank Sinfonia and been an official accompanist at festivals in Oxford, Bath, Lincolnshire and Essex.
As a repetiteur, Elspeth has worked with many companies including Opera de Bauge, English Touring Opera, Sussex Opera, Garden Opera, Second Movement Opera and Royal Academy Opera. Most recently she has been working as assistant musical director and pianist on Opera Up Close’s sell-out production of La Bohème which will shortly transfer to the Soho Theatre in London’s West End.
She also works as an accompanist with London Oriana Choir, The Cannons Scholars and Thurrock Choral Society. In 2009, Elspeth founded the St Georges Concert Series for whom she regularly performs. While studying at the Royal Academy of Music, Elspeth won the Scott Huxley Accompaniment prize and the Elena Gerhardt Lieder prize and has participated in masterclasses with Robert Tear, Barbara Bonney, Felicity Lott, Ingrid Surgenor and Malcolm Martineau amongst others.