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, and of course with his collaborator and assistant musical director Francesca Massey.

Assistant Musical Director: Francesca Massey

Francesca Massey was educated at Cambridge University and the Royal Northern College of Music (as an ABRSM Scholar) and was Assistant Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral before taking up her current post as Sub-Organist of Durham Cathedral in September 2011.

At the age of 19, Francesca gained all of the top prizes in the FRCO diploma and has since been awarded the W. T. Best Memorial Scholarship and Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and the Musicians Benevolent Fund’s Ian Fleming Award. She has studied with Jeremy Filsell, Kevin Bowyer, David Goode, and Andrew Fletcher.

Francesca’s recital venues have included many major concert halls, cathedrals and churches in the UK, and she has also performed throughout South Africa, Sardinia, Sweden and Denmark with Caius College Choir, with whom she recorded a number of acclaimed CDs.  Francesca has worked as a tutor for Cambridge University Faculty of Music, and on various courses hosted by Oundle for Organists and the RSCM, as well as performing extensively as an organ accompanist, continuo player, pianist, violinist and singer, and much in demand around the North East as an organ teacher and as a recitalist.

Francesca’s debut solo CD ‘Bravura’ was recorded in Durham Cathedral in 2015 for Priory Records.

Current Membership

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

Kathryn Crowder, Päivi-Sisko Eerola, Maria Fleming, Barbara Fox, Wendy Hughes, Jo Londesbrough, Rosie Patterson, Pam Plumb, Caroline Roberts,
Susan Shaw, Jane Shuttleworth, Heather Smith, Mary Tyers, Lotta Vaananen

Michael Gilmore, Wynn Griffiths, David Harris, Richard Hird, Colin Patterson, Euan Ross, Malcolm Smith.

Julian Chadwick, Nigel Day, Antony Friswell, Gerald Ions, Andrew Mein, Steve Rundle, Anthony Smith, Simon Squires, Simon Tasker, Peter Wilkie

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