Conductors and Singers

Musical Director: Julian Wright

Julian Wright has been Musical Director of the Durham Singers since 2007. He was born in Oxford, but has family connections in the North-East of England going back several generations. He is now Professor of History and Head of Humanities at Northumbria University, having previously held a lectureship at Durham University and postdoctoral fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford.

Julian’s career as a professional historian has been married with a heavy musical involvement in a number of different roles. While organ scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he sang in the Cathedral Choir of Christ Church, Oxford. As a professional choral singer, Julian was later a lay-clerk at New College, Oxford and Gentleman-in-Ordinary at HM Chapels Royal, St James’ Palace. He played a number of roles, from Figaro to Ferryman (Britten, Curlew River), performed widely in oratorio, and developed a deep interest in art-song, from Schubert’s Winterreise to Poulenc’s Tel jour, tel nuit.

As Musical Director of the Durham Singers, Julian has developed the choir’s repertoire, which ranges from the high Renaissance to works by contemporary composers such as Julian Anderson, Charlotte Bray, Augusta Read Thomas and others. He founded the Durham Singers Ensemble, a professional period-instrument chamber orchestra, which has accompanied the choir in performances of Bach’s Passions,  Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s The Creation bringing new life into these works for Northern audiences. Julian has a strong commitment to artistic programming that brings a sense of journeying through different styles and eras, and under his direction the choir’s taste in a cappella music has ranged extremely widely, allying major works such as Copland’s In the Beginning or Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia with earlier sacred repertory from Dunstable to Palestrina to Brahms, or with gentler light repertory from folksongs to Negro Spirituals.

Julian has developed a major commitment to musical outreach, leading the choir’s programme to train young soloists in a uniquely supportive environment, working with inspiring professional period instrumentalists, and introducing young choirs around the North East to the major works of the eighteenth-century repertory. He has involved the choir in collaborations with other visiting conductors, notably Robert Hollingworth, founder and director of ‘I Fagiolini’ for a performance of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in 2017.

Assistant Musical Director: Oliver Morrell

Oliver Morrell became Assistant Musical Director of the Durham Singers in September 2019, succeeding Francesca Massey. His role is to accompany our rehearsals, aiding the note-learning process, and to provide keyboard support of accompanied works. He is also called on to take rehearsals in the absence of the Musical Director.

Oliver is also the Junior Organ Scholar at Durham Cathedral where he works under the direction of Daniel Cook, regularly accompanying and conducting the various choirs in services. He also has daily responsibilities teaching the probationers and choristers and is involved with the administrative running of the department.

Oliver is currently an undergraduate at Durham University studying music. Prior to arriving in Durham, Oliver held the Tenor Choral Scholarship at Gloucester Cathedral. He studied with Bronwen Mills and sang with the Cathedral Choir at the daily services, under the direction of Adrian Partington. He also gained experience regularly directing rehearsals of the other Choral Scholars, accompanying rehearsals of the Saint Cecilia Singers (directed by Jonathan Hope and Ben Sawyer), and assisting with the running of the Cathedral Junior Choir and Primary School Outreach Programme.

Oliver was born in Kent and educated at St Olave’s Grammar School, spending five years as a Chorister at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. At school he developed an interest in choral directing, through founding a group focusing on Renaissance repertoire and directing the Chapel Choir (both from the age of 14). He was organist at the regular whole-school assemblies and served as répétiteur for theatrical productions.

An accomplished solo performer, he has given recitals as an organist, singer and pianist, and has acted and sung in theatrical productions at university and school. Also interested in composition, he has had works premiered at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.

Current Membership

Venetia Bridges, Beth Bromley, Ruth Durbridge, Amy Farquhar Gooding, Lois Gill, Hilary Ions, Sue Moore, Jane Noble, Marilyn Over, Kathy Palmer, Lexy Powell, Christine Purcell, Jo Setchell, Rachel Snape, Jennifer Tasker, Rachel Wearmouth, Deirdre Wilkie

Sarah Clowry Kathryn Crowder, Päivi-Sisko Eerola, Maria Fleming Lotz, Barbara Fox, Wendy Hughes, Jo Londesbrough, Rosie Patterson, Pam Plumb, Caroline Roberts, Susan Shaw, Jane Shuttleworth, Heather Smith, Ian Stout, Lotta Väänänen

Alex Chisholm-Loxley, Michael Gilmore, Wynn Griffiths, David Harris, Richard Hird, Colin Patterson, Euan Ross, Malcolm Smith

Julian Chadwick, Nigel Day, Gerald Ions, Steve Rundle, Anthony Smith, Simon Squires, Mike Stephenson, Simon Tasker, Peter Wilkie