David Fisher - Blog






1a & b: Front cover and title page of the programme

2. David Fisher acknowledging the applause with Giles Turner

3. L to R: Peter Crump, David Fisher, Terry Dwyer, Andrew Carter

4: Rehearsal photo taken from the cathedral’s choir gallery

5. David Fisher chatting to Terry Dwyer during rehearsals

6. L to R: Peter Crump, David Fisher, John Florance, Terry Dwyer, Andrew Carter taken at the pre-performance discussion with the composers

7: David Fisher discussing some finer points in the score with conductor with Giles Turner


Welcome to tonight’s very special concert at Leicester Cathedral. We are delight to present works by contemporary composers from Leicestershire who have established national and international reputations.  The biographical notes which the composers have given us show that they have connections with each other and also, in most cases have been influenced by Dr George Gray, late Master of Music at Leicester Cathedral and conductor of the Leicester Bach Choir from 1931 to 1969.  They can claim an impressive musical heritage: Dr Gray was very proud of the fact that he was taught by Sir Edward Bairstow, who was taught by Frederick Bridge, who was taught by John Goss, who was taught by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

The Leicester Bach Choir has fostered performances of new music throughout its seventy-four year history.  We are glad to be able to continue that tradition tonight, and to include in our programme work specially composed for the choir this year.  This evening’s music will demonstrate the breadth of composing styles in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  This will be a new and exciting experience for audience and performers alike.


PETER CRUMP (1928-2009*)

* this concert was, of course, seven years before Peter Crump’s death. Much missed by the musical world, further information may still be found on www.composersalliance.com.

Peter Crump completed a degree at Oxford, and studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM).  “In 1967 I came to Leicestershire and taught at Ravenhurst Junior School, Braunstone; King Edward VII Upper School, Melton; and Fairfield School, Loughborough.  The latter post I combined with private teaching and in 1976 I left to concentrate on private teaching as a Suzuki piano teacher.  For many years I was Music Critic of the Leicester Mercury.

“Simultaneously with all this, as a composer, many of my pieces have been performed and recorded.  These include Trio in B flat, premiered by the Oxford Trio at a New Walk Museum and Art Gallery lunchtime concert.  Threnody for cello and strings, composed in memory of my daughter Stella who was killed in a climbing accident, performed and recorded by the Kingfisher Chorale; March of the Hare for tuba quartet performed and recorded by Tubalate.  Three years ago pieces of mine were performed at my 70th birthday concert in St James the Greater.”

“I am secretary of the Central Composers’ Alliance.  Their own disc Music for A While was launched on 22nd November and includes my four settings of George Herbert and Berceuse for piano.”



Peter Crump writes that he first started his version of Stabat Mater in 1995 and has worked on it ever since.  Historically, the Stabat Mater, a 13th meditation on the sorrows of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, has been set to music several times.  “My setting,” says Crump, “uses Baroque forms and old instruments like shawm and recorder.  But it is not meant to be archaic.”

“Forms in the arts do not belong per se to particular periods and once evolved into something recognisable are valid for all time.  Nor need they remain static.  My harmonic language is tonal and employs a development of that used by Baroque and Classical composers. Added notes and sometimes chords, are a feature sometimes producing the effect of polytonality.  Forms used in Stabat Mater include Fugue and ground bass and for the last movement, Fac me plagis, a waltz.  Anyone who thinks this is inappropriate should be reminded that Bach used dance forms for the last movements of both the St. John and St. Matthew Passions.”



Andrew Carter’s early years in and around Leicester were taken up with as much with ringing and singing.  “I grew up in a change-ringing family and new many of the towers in the area. Then as now the Leicestershire Diocesan Association of Ringers was at the forefront of the art. Hand bells were my first instrument and I was ringing Christmas and folk tunes four-in-hand with the family team before I can remember.”

The next step was the piano.  “The late Helen Dalby LRAM, ARCM of Oadby Lane taught me piano for a decade, often bemoaning my lack of practice.  At Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School a whole new world of music opened up the (still) dynamic Terry Dwyer burst on the scene as music master. He introduced a whole gang of us to Hallé concerts at De Montfort Hall (my first hearing of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony) and put us through our paces in performance of Bach cantatas and Mozart operas when most other schools did G & S if they were lucky. In choir to we did justice to a challenging repertoire, and I sang successively soprano, alto, tenor and bass as my treble voice gradually sank to the bottom. Terry gave us a rigorous but imaginative grounding in all things harmonic and melodic, and I still have my exercise books to prove it. In my case music was the only shining star amongst the dismal litany of my school reports. Though I improvised on the piano from an early age (which explains some of Helen Dalby’s frustration!), my earliest surviving composition is a Prelude in C minor which won 1st prize in a school composition.”

 “It was in Leicester Cathedral that I first heard the Bach Passions sung by Leicester Bach Choir under George Gray. My abiding love of English Cathedral music had its origins there too, for I often attended evensong in my mid-teens (again prompted by Dwyer) to hear such works as Stanford in C and George’s wonderful accompaniments on the Harrison organ.”

In 1965 Andrew Carter founded the Chapter House Choir at York Minster. Many of his early carol and folk song arrangements were penned for his York choirs.  Oxford University Press has published over 50 pieces, five of them larger scale commissions for choir, soloists and orchestra. Benedicite has been performed on both sides of the Atlantic. Music’s Jubilee and Horizons were premièred at Otley and St Neot’s choral societies respectively, while the Te Deum and Songs of Stillness for American Lutheran and Quaker choirs.



Benedicite,” says Carter “is simply the Latin title ´All the world praise the Lord.´  The English Prayer Book takes thirty-three verses to say so; I chose few of the old verses and three new ones for the children, after an idea by Carol Woollcombe, to make eleven movements.”




Born in Leicester, Terence was educated in Bromley, but moved back at age 18.  After qualifying as a teacher, he studied organ under George Gray and composition under Ben Burrows.  He has lived in Quorn for 38 years where he leads a varied and interesting life.

His musical career began in Leicester by joining a small group of madrigal singers headed by Harold Dexter.  “Dexter inspired me greatly and introduced membership of both Leicester Cathedral Choir and Bach ChoirDeryck Cooke was in this group too, and he encouraged me to compose.  George Gray was always an inspiration to anyone who met him.”

Terence Dwyer’s first teaching post was at the Moat Road Boys’ School followed by Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School.  On leaving Kibworth he visited many Leicestershire Schools as Deputy Music Advisor. For over 50 years he played a prominent part in the musical life of Leicestershire, having conducted the Leicester City String Orchestra, Leicestershire County String Orchestra, Leicester Chamber Orchestra, Hinckley Choral Society, and Oadby Choral Society amongst others.  Of all his achievements he says he is proudest of the progress of some of his former pupils, who have gone on to become musicians of outstanding merit.

His compositions range from solo songs and chamber music to opera and symphony.  His first orchestral piece Bayeux Tapestry (1958) is still performed by local orchestras. In recent years he has completed a violin concerto, a large orchestral suite, and an organ quintet and shows no sign of running out of musical ideas at the age of 79.



This work commissioned for this concert, opens and closes with the inspiration of a poem by Walt Whitman (1819-1892).  “What music? What storm?” wondered Dwyer.  For an answer, he turned to Heather Newby, who had written the libretto for his opera Boadicea.  Newby kindly composed a new poem that becomes the haunting central text.

“The two poets dovetail perfectly,” says Dwyer. “The theme of Heather’s allegory whilst a little enigmatic, surely encapsulates the interdependence between the spiritual and the mundane.  For me this symbolises perfectly that the beauty and magic of music would not exist without the hard practical work of composers and performers.  Musicians need to feel and think, express and count the beats, to practise and let flow.  Long may music give us joy.”

“I compose in no particular style.  Every composer is an amalgam of all the music he hears and admires, unless he makes a special effort to innovate.  In Vision I responded to the words in a simple and direct manner, often following my instincts almost without thinking.  There were some conscious decisions, however: to share the text between soloist and choir in a reasonable proportion; to vary the choral texture from a single line up to eight-part writing; to use dissonant, plain, or ‘seductive’ harmony as appropriate; and to use orchestral colour to underline or illustrate the current mood.  Thus you will hear drums for horse hooves, trumpets and cymbals where mentioned etc.  The overall dramatic curve of work was planned, including making the musical style and texture gradually simpler as the work progresses.  I end with a big happy tune, to compensate for the previous turmoil.”


DAVID FISHER (b. 1952)

David Fisher considers Leicester his spiritual home, as most of his life has been shaped and influenced by two institutions here: Leicester Cathedral [from 1963] and Alderman Newton’s Boys’ Grammar School [from 1964].

 “Careers are often decided by a series of coincidences – is it fate? I had a good treble voice and sang at all the local festivals being trained by Miss Moon at Holmfield Primary School, Leicester Forest East.  She was a great teacher and developed a good choir and several excellent singers. The head teacher was Mr. Basford and his sons were in the cathedral choir.”

Due to his singing skills, he was recommended to George Gray and accepted for the choir although he was already 10 by that time. In his first year at the cathedral, having just transferred from going to a Leicestershire grammar school to Alderman Newton’s Boys’ School with the support of the Cathedral, he was auditioned for and offered the part of Oliver in the musical’s national tour. He turned it down because “by this time I was settled educationally and musically.”  There were compensations.  “George spotted skills at a very early stage and he was the next great influence in my life – possibly the greatest musically. I had composition lessons with him (gratis) when he found the time between the 4.00 and 6.30 evensongs on occasional Sundays. The foundation of my knowledge of the choral repertoire and skill in harmony is due to him.  He was a modest genius and many fell under his spell.”

“The next influence in my life was the music teacher at Alderman Newton’s Boys’ School, David Shaw. He was an eccentric and exciting musician.  His lessons were full of interest and his extra curricular work was brilliant. I was sorry when he left in the 11th Year but in the interregnum between his leaving and Peter White’s arriving I ran the music with several other musicians.  We gave concerts and shows and I conducted the choir and other groups too. My teaching and future conducting career came from this.”

“Thus my career was shaped by musicians from Leicester!  I went to the College of the Venerable Bede, Durham University (an Anglican college) under the auspices of the Cathedral. I fell in love with a Leicester lady and on completing my qualification, married and move back to Leicester.”

Fisher has been a moving force in Leicester ever since. He is Head of Performing Arts at King Edward VII College, Coalville, was the Musical Director of the Derby Choral Union and founded the Kingfisher Chorale.  He is Chairman of the Central Composers’ Alliance and a member of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.  His commissions include a sixty minute Requiem (2001) for Daventry Choral Society and three large works for children for the prestigious  Farnham Festival: Aspects of Time; All is Well and Let us build for ever.


Laudate Dominum was written in 1996 as a commission for Derby Choral Union and the internationally renowned soprano Dame Emma Kirkby with funds made available by East Midlands Arts.  It was then performed by the Leicester Bach Choir with Alison Smart.  Tonight’s performance includes the world première of the Alleluia movement in its organ version, written as part of Fisher’s doctorate portfolio in composition at Sheffield University.

“The universality of the text ‘O praise the Lord all ye people’ is emphasised by the use of four languages: Latin, German, English and French. The Laudate Dominum is written in ternary form with n introduction and coda.  At the end of the first movement, the choir alone sings three hushed ‘alleluias’ before a drum sets the rhythm for the next movement.  The voices grow from a unison note to a two-part chord, adding a progressive succession of parts until there is blazing eight-part climax in C major.  This soon dies away and the solo soprano sings the central theme from Laudate Dominum as a valedictory ‘alleluia’ before a final fanfare reflecting the conflicting E flat/C major tonalities which are pivotal to both movements.”


KATY TANSEY    soprano

Katy Tansey read music at Selwyn College, Cambridge and subsequently studied with David Pollard at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  Whilst there, she also won a scholarship to study Russian song at the Britten-Pears School with Galina Vishnevskaya with whom she subsequently studied privately.  Katy sings regularly with John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and understudied the role of Marzelline (Leonore) in Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed television production of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and as Fiordiligi (Cosi fan Tutte) under Tadaaki Otaka at the Snape Proms. Recent concert appearances include Handel’s Solomon with Northern Sinfonia, Mahler’s Second Symphony (Guildhall Cathedral), Bach’s St Matthew Passion (St John’s Smith Square), Mozart’s C Minor Mass (Birmingham Symphony Hall and Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers (Peterborough Cathedral).  She also made her Purcell Room debut singing Handel and Vivaldi cantatas with Badinage and gave a song recital in the September Musical de l’Orne Festival.  She also covered the role of Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) for Grange Park Opera and completed a nationwide in the role for Pimlico Opera. Most recently, she has performed the role of Fiordiligi for Pimlico Opera’s British tour of Cosi fan Tutte directed by Janis Kelly.  Future engagements include concerts in Norwich Cathedral and a recital in the Purcell Room.

THOMAS GUTHRIE     baritone

Thomas Guthrie studied Classics at Cambridge before winning a scholarship to study at the RNCM, where he won prizes including the Fassbaender Award for Lieder, the Schubert Prize, and an ESU scholarship to study with Thomas Allen in Chicago.  Roles include the title role in Don Giovanni and Count (Marriage of Figaro) for Jessie’s Fund, Papageno (Magic Flute) for Opera Theatre Company, Denisov (War and Peace) at the 1999 Spoleto Festival, Mr. Jenks (The Tender Land) at the Barbican, and Sir Hugh Evans (Sir John in Love) all for Richard Hickox; Dromio of Ephesus (Comedy of Errors) for Bampton.


The Leicester Bach Choir was founded in 1928 by Dr Gordon Slater, then Master of the Music at Leicester Cathedral, and was subsequently directed by his successors in that post, Dr George Gray (from 1931 to 1969) and Mr. Peter White (from 1969 to 1982).  Later conductors were Clive Fairbairn, Malcolm Goldring, Paul Spicer, Robert Hollingsworth and Daniel Phillips; since 1998 the choir has been directed by Giles Turner.  Their collective legacy has been an interest and expertise not only in performing the works of J S Bach but also in a wide range of British and European music ranging from the 15th to the 21st century. The choir has a current membership of approximately 50 singers, enabling it to perform both fairly large scale and more intimate works. 


The Chameleon Arts Orchestra was formed in 1987 by Chameleon Arts Management, to answer the need of Choral Societies nationwide for quality performance of the great works for choir and orchestra.  From Monteverdi to Benjamin Britten, the orchestra performs in churches, cathedrals and concert halls throughout the country and can regularly be seen in concert at such venues as St John’s, Smith Square, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Snape Maltings. As the premier orchestra devoted to the performance of choral works, the ensemble boasts some of the country’s finest freelance players whose other work includes the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Opera House Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra.