Music Director (Choral Society & Community Choir): Tom Newall
British conductor Tom Newall has established a successful freelance career in the UK and beyond.
He founded Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in 2014 to give young professional musicians experience in a high-quality ensemble, helping to bridge the gap between a player’s studies and professional orchestras. The orchestra has established a busy schedule, with large-scale Symphony Orchestra projects at its base in Harpurhey, North Manchester. With PSO, Tom has just completed a large-scale community composition project, where young people have created and performed their own music, accompanied by the orchestra.
Tom is also very active as an opera conductor. Recent highlights have included Macbeth, La Bohème, The Magic Flute, A Masked Ball and The Turn of the Screw with Leeds Youth Opera, Cosi fan Tutte with Flatpack Music, Die Fledermaus with Fulham Opera and two premieres with Manchester Opera Project. In Summer 2018, he made his debut at Buxton International Festival conducting The Orphans of Koombu.
Tom has conducted much of the orchestral canon with works ranging from Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 to Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. He has worked with a number of professional and high-level community orchestras in the north of England. Tom is currently Music Director for both Salford and Congleton Choral Societies.
With a strong passion for new music, Tom has commissioned a number of new works, most notably The Gardener for chorus and orchestra by Lucy Armstrong, with a libretto by Rebecca Hurst. He conducted one of the first performances of Kate Whitley and Laura Attridge’s oratorio Our Future in Your Hands for Buxton Inter-national Festival in July 2022.
Highlights of the 2022/23 season include co-creating and conducting a new opera The Light Princess with director Sophie Gilpin at Leeds Conservatoire, Elgar Symphony No. 2, Massenet Le Cid, Holst The Perfect Fool and Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending with Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra, and a busy choral season covering Handel Dixit Dominus, Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, Mendelssohn Elijah, Haydn Creation and Brahms Requiem.
Accompanist (Choral Society): Rachel Fright
Rachel studied with scholarships to Pembroke College, Oxford and the Royal Northern College of Music, where she was a Junior Fellow in Accompaniment and won many prizes for her collaborative work. Following her performance as a Leeds Lieder Young Artist 2018, Rachel was awarded the Hester Dickson Prize to study at Oxenfoord International Summer School with Malcolm Martineau. Following graduation, Rachel pursued some private study with Julius Drake. Rachel performs regularly across the UK and has been featured on BBC Radio 3. She has a particular interest in song and choral music.
Rachel works for the RNCM School of Vocal Studies and Opera as a collaborative pianist and teaches at Yorkshire Young Musicians and on the Rodolfus Choral Courses. She is also passionate about musical outreach, and works regularly for Live Music Now, the Leeds Lieder Festival and SoundUp Arts to bring music to the community. She is in demand as a choral accompanist and works for Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, Congleton Choral Society and Prestbury Choral Society. In 2023, Rachel was a prizewinner in the Stella Jockel Memorial Prize for choral composition.
Recent work has included repetiteur work to bring Julia Perry’s music to life as part of vocal tutor Michael Harper’s Arts and Humanities Research Council project, a French song project with Jackdaws Music Education Trust, a children’s opera with Clonter Opera Theatre and concerts at Oxford Lieder Festival and Leeds Lieder Festival. Rachel is also on the working group for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity for Live Music Now.
Accompanist (Community Choir): Kevin Birch
Kevin Birch started to learn the piano from the age of seven followed by the church organ. He has also been heavily involved in the local brass band movement playing for the Middlewich Band (now Roberts Bakery Band) and United Co-operative Band (Crewe) on horn, baritone, euphonium, and tuba. It was whilst at Roberts Bakery that he started to arrange and compose music for various different ensembles. His works have been performed and recorded all over the UK and Europe, including on Radio 2’s “Listen to the Band” and on CD by the Foden’s Band.
Between 1994 and 2006, Kevin was the Musical Director of Audley Brass. During his time with the band, they qualified for the National Brass Band Championships on two occasions in Nottingham and Dundee, also gaining contest victories at the Midlands Regional, Pontins and Milton Keynes Competitions. In 1999, Kevin was commissioned to write a piece for the band in conjunction with a National Lottery Grant, called Blore Heath 1459, which depicted the death of Lord Audley, which began the English War of the Roses.
Towards the end of 2011, Kevin was appointed as Organist and Director of Music at St Mary's Church, Sandbach. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Funeral and Crematorium Organists. In summer 2017, Kevin received a Diploma of Fellowship (FVCM) in composition from the Victoria College of Music and Drama, London.
Kevin is also the Spotlight Director of the Sandbach Concert Series, providing opportunities for young people to perform in concerts alongside professional musicians. Kevin continues to develop the musical projects at the church, and collaborations with other musical organisations within the community.