Episode 171: The Culture of Choral Musicianship with David Hill

This week, I have the honor of crossing the pond virtually to discuss the profound yet often overlooked concept of “vocal musicianship.” Joining me is a distinguished guest, David Hill whose passion and advocacy for choral music spans from the professional to the amateur singer. David is the conductor of London’s renowned Bach Choir. We discuss a variety of advocacy topics including the importance of the amateur and youth choir maintaining a high level of quality, as well as disparities in payment faced by singers compared to their instrumental counterparts. For this topic we dissect the recent controversy of the near loss of the BBC Singers.

David also shares his thoughts about reaching out to new audiences and expanding our concept of what “choir building” means. In this episode, we unravel the layers of talent and dedication it takes to be a professional singer. We address the stereotypes and misconceptions that often surround vocal artists, shedding light on the immense skill, discipline, and artistry that define their craft. David’s wide range of choral experiences makes him an excellent guide on this important journey as we try to bring choral music into its next era.

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Renowned for his fine musicianship, David Hill is widely respected as both a choral and orchestral conductor. His talent has been recognised by his appointments as Musical Director of The Bach Choir, Music Director of Leeds Philharmonic Society, Associate Guest conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of Yale Schola Cantorum, and International Chair in Choral Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music. He was Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers from September 2007 to September 2017 and is a former Music Director of Southern Sinfonia.

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Born in Carlisle and educated at Chetham’s School of Music, of which he is now a Governor, he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the remarkably young age of 17. Having been Organ Scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, David Hill returned to hold the post of Director of Music from 2004-2007. His other appointments have included Master of the Music at Winchester Cathedral, Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral and Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Chorus. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Southampton for Services to Music, and in March 2018, he was honoured with the prestigious Royal College of Organists medal, in recognition of distinguished achievement in choral conducting and organ playing.

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David Hill has a broad-ranging discography covering repertoire from Thomas Tallis to a number of world premiere recordings. As well as achieving prestigious Grammy and Gramophone Awards, many of his discs have been recommended as Critic’s Choices, with his ongoing series of English choral music for Naxos, and discs for Hyperion with the Yale Schola Cantorum receiving particular acclaim.

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Hill has appeared with the BBC Symphony and BBC Philharmonic orchestras, London Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, English Chamber Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera, the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, Ulster Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Réal Filharmonia de Galicia, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Omaha Symphony, and Portland Baroque Orchestras as well as the Netherlands Radio Choir, the National Youth Choir of Australia, and RIAS Chamber Choir, Berlin.

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His commitment to new music has led to him premiering works from leading composers including Judith Bingham, Carl Rütti, Francis Pott, Bob Chilcott, Gabriel Jackson, James Macmillan, Philip Moore, Naji Hakim, Sir John Tavener, Philip Wilby and Jonathan Dove. Recent highlights include the world premiere of Gabriel Jackson’s The World Imagined with the Philharmonia at Three Choirs Festival.

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In January 2019 David Hill was awarded an MBE for services to music.

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