An inspiring choral director and conductor

Lee directs with meticulous care and unbounded intensity

Directing choirs and orchestras lies at the very heart of Lee’s musical life. He holds directorial positions with four symphonic choruses, working with nearly four hundred singers each week, and with them he has conducted the majority of the choral-orchestral repertoire.

Lee began conducting choirs whilst still at school, and directed his own choir at Hertford College during his studies at the University of Oxford. With them he gave the UK première performance of Erkki-Sven Tüür Requiem and recorded his first CD, including music by Peter Maxwell Davies, John Tavener, and Judith Weir. He went on to direct the choir of Christ Church, Southgate in London, who, alongside their duties in church services, gave concert performances of Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, Fauré Requiem, Handel Messiah, and Monteverdi Vespers. Whilst there he also held his first position with a large chorus, as Musical Director of the Enfield Choral Society, with performances including major works by Bryars, Rossini, and Vaughan Williams.

Whilst serving as Organ Scholar at York Minster he learned his craft watching Philip Moore direct the Minster Choir, and the York Musical Society, a symphonic chorus which traces its origins back to 1767, including performances of works composed especially for the choirs by Dr Moore. His next move was to Northampton as Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, which throughout his eight-year tenure was formed of no less than twenty boy choristers, twenty girl choristers, sixteen choral scholars and lay clerks, and a separate adult choir. These groups sang seven choral services each week during term time, and toured throughout Europe and North America, as well as at many of the major English cathedrals including Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Northampton has a great heritage of commissioning new music in the service of the church, and at All Saints Lee developed a scheme to continue this legacy. This scheme reached a milestone in 2013 with the commissioning of a 15-minute cantata from Jonathan Dove, Out of the Whirlwind, and the earlier 2010 work from Sir James MacMillan, a magnificent Ave Maria. This was closely followed in 2011 by two carols from the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, The Holly and the Ivy and The Shepherd’s Carol, works which have been showcased by the BBC Singers every Christmas since. In all Lee commissioned over fifty works during his time at All Saints, including works by Malcolm Archer, Humphrey Clucas, Barry Ferguson, Michael Finnissy, Stephen Hough, Francis Jackson, Gordon Lawson, and Adrian Self.

The choirs also recorded four critically-acclaimed commercial CDs during his time there, including a recording of new American carols for chorus and piano, Be Merry! (2014), where they were joined by members of the Northampton Bach Choir, who appointed Lee as their Musical Director in 2007, a position he still holds. With the Northampton Bach Choir Lee has explored the major choral-orchestral works by Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Britten, Handel, Haydn, Monteverdi, Mozart, Poulenc, Rutter, Verdi, and Vaughan Williams, as well as new choral-orchestral works by Stephen Chatman, David Conte, Steve Dobrogosz, Dan Forrest, and Craig Phillips, and smaller pieces by the late Sir Stephen Cleobury, Simon Johnson, Edmund Jolliffe, Gordon Lawson, and Michael Nicholas.

Since "going freelance" in 2014 he has gradually built up his portfolio of choirs, working with the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir since 2015, the Wellingborough Singers since 2017, and the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir since 2020. He was also Director of Music at Olney Parish Church from 2014 until 2019, a job he held concurrently with the position of Director of Music at St Mary’s Church, Wellingborough, a position he continues to hold. Highlights with these choirs include conducting the UK première of Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo, the European première of Grechaninov’s Kvalite Boga, and directing the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic’s orchestra in Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2.

In recent years Lee has led festivals, workshops and choral courses in a number of our great cathedrals, both here in the UK and in Europe. His work as a choral consultant in chapels, churches and schools aims to enhance their existing musical resources, expand their outreach work, and equip them for the needs of the twenty-first century. Lee is inspired and motivated by the wide variety and range of choral music active across the country, and considers it an immense privilege to stand before all the musicians he works with, be they amateur or professional.

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