Highworth Choral Society is a registered charity (1096246) with the aims of promoting different types of choral singing in the Highworth area.
The present Highworth Choral Society was formed when a local GP, Dr David Lawrence, asked all who enjoyed singing to meet at Warneford School in September 1978.
He led from the front for the first concert of the newly formed society - a Christmas concert in St Michael's Church, Highworth.
Other notable Musical Directors include Alan Wicker, Nigel Dodds and Esme Weight.
The Bass Section
Meet the 'bed-rock' of the choir! We are the firm foundation that every other section of the choir 'sings' on top of. Although singing a strong bass line, we are known for having our more 'tuneful' moments!
The Alto Section
We help to provide the 'sandwich filling' of the choir.....singing between the sopranos and tenors. If your days of hitting the high notes are behind you or you have a naturally lower register then come and join our friendly section!
The Tenor Section
Where would a choir be without its' tenors? With our higher, sonorous range, we add musical 'colour' to the pieces we sing!
The Soprano Section
We float and soar across the top of the choir. If you enjoy the giddy notes of the 'head voice' then we are the section to join!
Jen was born into a musical family and has lived in Swindon for most of her life. Primarily a flautist and piccolo player, she has enjoyed teaching, playing and directing in a variety of capacities over the years, working with people of all ages and abilities.
Jen believes that music should be a nurturing experience, giving a sense of fun and achievement at all levels. She enjoys sharing her love of music with others and using it to enhance the lives of those who choose to listen or participate.
Directing experience began many years ago when Jen ran flute choirs with students and later, was MD for the Estelle School of Dance in their bi-ennial musicals at the Wyvern Theatre. More recently, she became assistant MD to The Village Singers in Chippenham, MD for Sing 4/4 Community Choir in Cricklade and she also runs a small vocal group in Christian Malford. In addition, Jen continues to teach the flute both privately and at Warneford School; she thoroughly enjoys the variety in her work and is delighted to have been invited to lead Highworth Choral Society.
Performing highlights include playing the flute & piccolo for The Armed Man in Bruges, Faure’s Requiem in L’eglise de la Madeleine, Paris (where it was first performed in 1888) and singing in the North American premier of Symphonic Adiemus in Carnegie Hall, New York, in 2019 with a massed choir from around the world under the leadership of Jonathan Griffiths, to celebrate Sir Karl Jenkins’ 75th birthday, which was an absolute joy!
Over the last few years, Jen has found a new musical outlet by studying composition and Jazz piano, which she finds very therapeutic and rewarding. After spending many hours playing and singing with her father in his nursing home, Jen was inspired to take interactive music sessions into Care Homes and is currently studying to become a Song Therapist.
Chris Williams is our rehearsal accompanist and concert pianist. Chris began playing the piano at the age of eight. She studied music at Liverpool University and followed this with a year at Gipsy Hill College of Education.
After several years of classroom teaching, she now teaches piano privately and is actively involved in the musical life of the local community. She has been with Highworth Choral Society since 1994.
The Committee, under the guidance of our chairman Christine Dunster, manages the choir under the principles set out in the Constitution. The committee determines the course the choir should take, in conjunction with advice from our Musical Director.
Vice chair & Committee Member
General Committee Member
General Committee member
General Committee Member
General Committee member
General Committee member
General Committee member
PREVIOUS MUSICAL DIRECTORS
Leon James was born in Bedfordshire. He was a Westminster Abbey Chorister from 1973 to 1978 under the direction of Dr. Douglas Guest and Stephen Cleobury. Study at the Birmingham Conservatoire began in 1983 with Brian Rayner Cook, receiving coaching from Geoffrey Pratley, Stuart Smith and Pamela Cook MBE. He graduated on the teaching and performing courses in 1987. Whilst at the Conservatoire, Leon won the Gordon Clinton English Song Prize and the Reginald Vincent Lieder Competition. He was a finalist in the Canoldir Award Competition and won the Birmingham and Midland Institute Prize for singing in 1987.
His career over the years has involved performing in numerous Operas and Oratorios, as well as singing professionally for The Sixteen, The Academy of Ancient Music and Ex Cathedra. He appears as a soloist on some of Ex Cathedra’s CD recordings (under his previous surname of Storey), and performed with them as a soloist in Sicily, Milan, Lyon, Lourdes, Leipzig, Dresden, and Bruges over the years.
Leon has always combined his singing engagements with his teaching career. He has been a Choral Animateur for Ex Cathedra and the British Federation of Young Choirs, as well as a highly regarded and successful Head of Music in different schools over the last thirty years. He was the Musical Director of both the Selly Park Choral Society and The Phoenix Singers in Birmingham up until 2001, rehearsing and conducting concerts, some with piano or organ accompaniment, but most concerts with a full orchestra and professional soloists.
He was Director of Music at Chipping Campden School in the North Cotswolds from 2001-2013, where he directed superb student performances of the musicals “Oliver”, “Les Miserables”, “Return to the Forbidden Planet”, “West Side Story”, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Godspell”, plus concert performances of Vivaldi’s “Gloria’, Rutter‘s “Requiem”, “5 Famous English Church Anthems” and Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols”. He also directed the Chipping Campden Swing Band, a big band that at its peak had over 60 pieces on its play list from the 1920’s to the present day. Leon also formed and directed two highly regarded choral groups Canzona and Canzonetta.
Leon moved on to pastures new in January 2014 and was the Head of Music at St. Benedict’s RC School in Alcester up until the end of October 2019, as well as being the MD of the Solihull Chandos Choir and the Warwickshire Singers.
Leon has achieved his long-term aim to retire from the classroom (after over 30 years as a secondary school Director of Music), in order to focus 100% on where he feels most at home and in his ‘element’, as a choral director. He began his new role as MD of Highworth Choral Society in September 2021and left after one year to take up another appointment closer to his home in the Midlands.
Jacki Pattenden joined the Society as Musical Director in January 2014. She studied music at Dartington College of Arts as a singer and violinist and orchestral performance at the Centre for Orchestral Studies, Goldsmith’s College, London. This was then followed with a PGCE resulting in qualification as a teacher; a career she has been pursuing for the past thirty years.
She is widely experienced in music education and has directed numerous choral and instrumental ensembles. Prior to becoming our Musical Director she was the MD for the Cotswold Children’s Choir and the Thamesdown Ladies Choir. Jacki works as a music teacher, a music SLE (Specialist Leader of Education, National College), a freelance violinist and as a regional choral workshop leader. She is also a singing advisory teacher for the Voices Foundation and an associate trainer for Music Education Solutions.
In September 2004 Mike Avery became the choir's Musical Director. Before joining the Society he had sung at both ends of England (Exeter and Carlisle) as well as at Alton and Malmesbury among other places. His first conducting assignment was with a Girls Brigade choir; since conducting a wide range of other choirs, including Parish Singers of Brinkworth and Wootton Bassett Choral Society.
Under Mike’s leadership, HCS had their musical wings stretched by works from composers such as Bruckner, Brahms, Handel and Mozart, mixed with lighter summer offerings from the West End and Gilbert and Sullivan amongst others. During his time as MD, the choir was fortunate enough to be able to travel on two occasions to the French town of Pontorson where they were able to not only enjoy the expansive French hospitality, but also to experience singing in the architecturally and acoustically spectacular Église Note-Dame.
Mike left at end of 2013 after 10 years at the helm. Highworth Choral Society is very thankful for all the hard work and dedication he put in during his time as MD.
Veronica Phillipson spent ten successful years as Musical Director of our Society. She began teaching music in Croydon with fellow teacher Barry Forgie, now Musical Director of the BBC Big Band. She emigrated to South Africa in 1970 where she joined the Johannesburg Bach Choir.
In 1972, Veronica headed for Botswana where she formed the Selibe Pikwe Singers. It was not long before she ended up in Nairobi singing with the Kericho Music Ensemble and the Nairobi Choral Society of which she was Honorary Secretary for a year. While in Nairobi, singing wasn't enough so Veronica played percussion for the Nairobi Symphony Orchestra in performances of Carmina Burana, Die Fledermaus and Mozart's Figaro.
In 1976, it was time for Veronica to move on. Conductorship beckoned with the Abu Dhabi Choral Group which, under her leadership, made a number of radio broadcasts. During this time she was also resident composer and Musical Director to the Abu Dhabi Dramatic Society. After three years, Greece looked attractive and while teaching music in an American school in Athens, she sang with the Athens Singers.
Finally in 1984, Veronica returned to the UK and joined the Royal Military College of Science choir in Watchfield, Wiltshire and the Faringdon Singers before moving on to Swindon Choral Society where she was librarian for a year. In 1986, while with the Marlborough Town Choral Society, Veronica was appointed as Head of Music at Highworth Warneford School.
She became Highworth Choral Society's Musical Director in 1994. Under her leadership the choir undertook works including Rossini's Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Handel's Messiah, Charpentier's Messe de Minuit and Mozart's Requiem in D Minor and it also entered the Sainsbury's Choir of the Year Competition. In 2003, she inspired the choir with Misa Cubana, and
conducted our UK premiere of this work.
In August 2004 Veronica continued her world travels by moving to the Caribbean island of St. Kitts to help develop music in the island's schools.