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John Coates was born in Leeds. With scholarships gained in years when he feels competition was not too great, he took a Mus.B degree at Manchester and an MA at Birmingham; the gaining of these qualifications, with a few diplomas thrown in, tended to temporarily suppress an early interest in choral music and conducting which had been sparked off in the first instance by his first music teacher, Charles Bainbridge of Ikley.
After some school teaching and extra mural lecturing for Birmingham University, John headed south for Shoreditch College of Education in the pleasant surroundings of Egham and Windsor. After seven years there, he faced the prospect of being asked to be Dean of the College, responsible for the moral welfare of some 200 students. Daunted, indeed frightened, he made a quick departure for a more musical post as assistant to Donald Cashmore at Ealing Music Centre. A return north soon followed with a post
As the College expanded, this became “Head of Student Affairs”, an intriguing title until the College changed it to “….Student Academic Affairs”. His final post was Director of Studies. Increasing paperwork and statistics led him to choose early retirement so as to devote more time to practical music-making. He regularly conducts the Otley and Ilkley Choral Societies. He has worked for Sing for Pleasure for many years and always enjoys the Summer Schools and the contribution he can make to conductor training. Last year he worked for A Coeur Joie Belgium and visited Vaison in the South of France. He recalls with affection the impact that Cesar Geoffray had upon him in his early days.
His publications through OUP and SfP include two books of edited partsongs (“Sing Easy” and “Perry Merry Di.xi”) and two books of original rounds and canons (“Round and Round” and “It’s My Round”).
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Born Oldham in 1928, James was the only child of parents who worked in the Lancashire cotton trade. He had piano and later organ lessons with a local teacher, Arnold Eastwood and started his musical life as a choirboy in his local church choir alongside Margery Thomas, five years his senior, who inspired him when she sang the contralto solos in ‘Messiah’, and who later went on to be one of Britain’s greatest singers.
After leaving school, he worked in local government until he won a place at the Royal Manchester School of Music. There he took joint first studies of piano, with Iso Ellison, and also organ, and later studied voice with Elsie Thurston. He then became a music teacher at Hollinwood Secondary Modern School in Oldham, where he started a school choir, winning festivals and doing broadcasts for BBC North.
It was at this point that he realised that success in music can boost self-confidence which was what youngsters at the school lacked, and that it can help people achieve in other areas. He believed wholeheartedly that music is for everyone and that singing can bind people together like nothing else.
In 1961 the Director of Education, Gerald Pritchett, asked him to become Music Advisor for Oldham, with the aspiration of building music in the town and developing singing and instrumental teaching. In 1963 he founded the Oldham Youth Choir (mixed choir of 60 voices) and a junior choir. He also initiated a huge non-competitive music festival which took place over three days each year, involving hundreds of youngsters and this event, together with the Oldham Music Centre, is still very much thriving today, and the flame he lit still burns brightly.
In 1968 he became a Principal Lecturer in Music Education at Bretton Hall, with particular responsibility for the one-year P.G.C.E. course. He was also highly respected as an adjudicator at Music Festivals and lectured all over the country on music education and vocal training.
He conducted choirs all his life and as well as starting the Oldham Music Centre groups, he conducted the Royton and Oldham Choral Societies for many years. Later he directed the Bretton Singers, Sheffield’s Sterndale Singers and formed Sine Nomine in 1988.
In 1964, along with a number of others, he attended a course in Bristol for singers and conductors, run by tutors from the French ‘A Coeur Joie’ Choral movement. Following this, there were meetings and discussions about how to develop a British version and the National Choral Organisation, ‘Sing for Pleasure’ was born, which will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. A founder member, James was elected Chairman in 1972, and remained so until his death in 1996, working with hundreds of singers and conductors during that time.
He would be so proud to know that those he trained are now out there, inspiring others as he did and that hundreds of people have had their lives enriched by the joy of singing thanks to his encouragement. As his epitaph says, ‘The singing will never be done’.
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Manvinder Rattan is currently on a sabbatical from his role as Head of Conductor Training for Sing for Pleasure. While in this role, he leads a team of tutors who teach around 300 conductors a year. The acclaimed programme is very popular and for the last two years, 100% of respondents have rated its training as good to excellent. Manvinder has been Musical Director of the John Lewis Partnership Music Society since 1995 where he is responsible for its 15 choirs and an orchestra, he was a judge for BBC2’s ‘The Choir’ with Gareth Malone, focussing on singing in the workplace. He is also Musical Director of Serafine Chamber Choir and Sinfonia with whom he released the premiere recording of Oliver Tarney’s Magnificat. Freelance engagements keep him busy, with numerous guest conducting, teaching and adjudicating engagements in the UK and abroad. Manvinder was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, York St John University, for his services to music and conducting in 2016.
Stephen, Sing for Pleasure’s Interim CEO from September 2021, is well known to members as a conducting tutor and also for his dedicated, insightful and effective chairing of the Trustees for many years. He studied piano, percussion and composition at Trinity College, London, and conducting with Dr. Jack Stamp at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA, and has enjoyed a substantial career in music education, also working as a freelance conductor, pianist and percussionist. Stephen is an examiner for the Royal Schools of Music and a published arranger (OUP). He has worked as guest conductor for Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (USA) and for South Wessex Opera Company, in addition to directing Milton Abbey Festival and working with the Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus. He is the founder director of the All Hallows Festival, Twickenham. Stephen has directed several choral societies including Broadstone Community Choir, The Lease Singers, Lytchett Choir, and Cantanti Camerati of Richmond.
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Ken Lee is a Freelance Music Curriculum Specialist who has conducted on numerous singing days, weekends and summer schools across the country from Somerset to Hadrian’s Wall.
Previously Ken worked for both Manchester and Salford Music and Performing Arts Services and has provided in-service training for class and music specialist teachers. He has also been a Key Stage 2 class teacher. Children’s Choirs he has trained have sung at such venues as Manchester and Salford Cathedrals, St Ann’s Church (St Ann’s Square Manchester) The Exchange Theatre and the Bridgewater Hall. He has also trained children to sing for radio and television broadcasts and for roles in opera and school musicals.
Some of his published musical arrangements have been recorded and televised by winning ‘choirs of the year.’ Ken has co-edited music books for children and their teachers in the ‘Sing for Pleasure’ series.
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The only child of the celebrated musician Lionel Nutley, Jan was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and was a student of the organist and composer Dr Bernard Rose at Magdalen College. She moved to Leeds in the 1970s, where she was for many years a senior lecturer in music, at first at the James Graham College in Farnley, west Leeds, and later at Beckett Park, working closely with the department head, John Pitts, on collections of music for school use. Jan had a long association with Sing for Pleasure and was a prolific composer and arranger, often setting her own witty lyrics to music.
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Alan Simmons is one of the most highly regarded choral leaders and composers in the UK. Each of his musical projects builds on over 40 years of understanding of music, choirs and children. Starting out as a music teacher, Alan built a reputation that saw him rise to become a director of Music for Schools in Yorkshire, Vice President of the National Association of Choirs and Chair of Sing For Pleasure in the UK. Alan’s works have been performed in some of the UK’s most prestigious venues, including several times at The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, for Her Majesty The Queen in her Jubilee year in Symphony Hall, Birmingham and in 2014 in Leeds Town Hall as part of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
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Rebecca Berkley leads the Musicianship for Singers programmes for Sing for Pleasure. She has been composing and arranging music for choirs throughout her career, ranging from warm ups and technical exercises, to settings of choral songs for children’s, youth and community choirs. Rebecca is an Associate Professor in Music Education at the University of Reading. Specialising in choral education, musicianship and musical leadership, she teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and is a doctoral supervisor. She is also director of Universal Voices, a community choir for children which offers a free choral education to all children in the Reading area, along with training opportunities for aspiring local choral conductors and music education students.
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Patrick Shuldham-Shaw was a man of many talents. He had a thirst for learning and had not only an encyclopaedic knowledge of most subjects (including whisky and food) he was an authority on the folk music, song and dance of many countries. He played many instruments and spoke many languages – indeed, it was said that there were none he could not just pick up and play or converse in. He was a fine singer, natural teacher and a lover of puns with a sometimes wicked sense of humour.
Pat collected traditional tunes – most notably in Shetland where he noted down tunes which had previously been passed on orally. He edited The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection which was published in eight volumes after his death. He was a ‘Roving Ambassador’ for the Sing for Pleasure movement. Most of all he was an authority on and composer of English Country Dances.
It was his prodigious output of dances in all styles and levels of complexity which has led him to be labelled the Twentieth Century Dancing Master. He took his dances to Wales, Scotland, Holland and the U.S.A. as well as all over England.
But Pat was also full of charm and enthusiasm and had a charisma which led to him being loved and well remembered by all who knew him.
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Katy Lavinia Cooper is Director of Chapel Music at the University of Glasgow and works extensively as a choral conductor, arranger and workshop leader throughout the UK. She is co-director/founder of Glasgow Madrigirls, and conducts Scottish Opera’s Community Choir. Katy completed a PhD focussing on seventeenth century Scottish vocal music in 2016, and was appointed as Head of Marketing at Sing for Pleasure in 2020.
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Mark is the Musical Director of Oxford Pro Musica Singers and Milton Keynes Chorale, and a regular guest conductor of the award-winning choir Canzonetta. Described as ‘dynamic’, ‘energetic’ and ‘fun to work with’, he was recently chorus master for Karl Jenkins’ 75th Birthday Concert Tour and is a member of the choral conducting team at the Chester Choral Week, as well as undertaking many freelance engagements throughout the UK. He has been tutoring for Sing for Pleasure since 2013. Mark also regularly works as an accompanist and has held positions with many choirs over the years. He is also a highly-experienced choral singer having worked with several award-winning amateur and semi-professional choirs.
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Oliver Tarney was born (1984) and educated in Lancaster, moving on to read music at Manchester university. After completing a Master’s Degree in composition, and training as a teacher, he is now Head of Academic Music and Composition at Winchester College in Hampshire. He sings regularly with the college’s chapel choir and with Winchester Cathedral choir.
His most recent works are published by Oxford University Press, including the Missa Media Nocte and The Wise Men and the Star. Other recent pieces Lux Stellarum, a requiem written for the American Cathedral in Paris, first performed at St Sulpice, and Majora Canamus, written for the Southern Cathedrals’ Festival in Winchester, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester was written for Sansara Chamber Choir (winners of the 2015 London International A Cappella Choir Competition) with whom he is an associate composer, and has been recorded on their their acclaimed CD, Cloths of Heaven (Convivium Records).
2019 saw his St Mark Passion, commissioned by the St Endellion Easter Festival 2019, given its first performance. His 2014 Magnificat has been recorded by Serafine Chamber Choir & Sinfonia and released on the Convivium Records label to wide critical acclaim. Other recent recordings include a setting of Maria Virgo assumpta est for Suzi Digby’s Ora Singers, and a set of three Christmas pieces (The Waiting Sky, Balulalow, and The Wise Men and the Star) recorded for Sansara’s most recent album, The Waiting Sky.
Oliver has worked extensively with ‘Sing for Pleasure’, the national choral organisation that promotes choral singing in communities, choirs, and classrooms, and a number of his arrangements are published by SfP Publishing. He is passionate about inspiring others to find a love of singing.
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A former “Outstanding” primary school teacher, Ula is a leading conductor, teacher trainer and workshop leader, whose work has taken her around the UK and abroad. Ula sings with the renowned choir Ex Cathedra and is one of their lead education vocal tutors. She co-created Ex Cathedra Education’s internationally acclaimed and award-winning Singing Playgrounds project. A trained choral conductor, Ula currently conducts a number of choirs including the 200-strong CBSO SO Vocal, the CBSO Children’s Chorus and the National Teachers’ Choir. She is Head of Events for the National Choral Organisation, Sing for Pleasure and Choral Programme Director for The People’s Orchestra. Ula has written a number of children’s songs which are featured in Ex Cathedra’s SingMaker books, as well as choral arrangements of traditional songs which have been published by Sing for Pleasure. When not working, Ula enjoys walking and crafting and is happiest when she is by the sea!
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Nick has more than a decade of choral and orchestral conducting experience, and is currently Director of Girl Choristers at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford. In addition to conducting, Nick holds the ARCO organ diploma, and is a published composer. Off the podium, Nick fills the Head of Finance & Operations role on the SfP management team. He also works in digital consulting with Deloitte Digital, and enjoys exchanging his organ shoes for football boots when given the opportunity.
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“The training I was given in 2013-14 as part of the first Sing for Pleasure Young Conductors Programme is the most valuable I have ever received. The skills I gained have had an enormous impact on all aspects of my life. Not only are my choirs far happier now, but I feel able to stand up and confidently educate and inspire children and adults across a broad spectrum of musical subjects.
SfP really is about training the next generation of vocal leaders so that we can encourage even more people to sing. The network that you develop as part of the organisation – of truly inspiring people – is a gift. I work with adult and youth choirs at my local church, and in workshops, and am in a far better place to help them sing at their best as a result of SfP’s help. I can’t thank them enough.”
Nick was subsequently selected to train as a choral conducting tutor with SfP, and now leads courses across the country; in 2018 he was invited to join our Senior Management Team, taking on the role of Head of Finance and Operations.
“It was a privilege to have been one of the Young Conducting Scholars for 2018-19; a year through which I feel I grew both technically and musically, thanks to the training and support I received over the 12 months.
I have become much more confident as a musical leader, shown in my improved gesture, confidence in my interpretation and vocal modelling, as well as general leadership. Not only did this manifest itself in my conducting, but also in my self-belief, bolstering my decision to pursue conducting as a career.”
In 2020, Jamie received a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music to study for his Masters degree in choral conducting there, beginning in September 2020.
“My scholarship for 2017-18 was an incredible experience. The group sessions and one-to-one mentoring taught me so much, and without the scholarship, it would have been impossible financially for me to have had the same experiences. My conducting skills underwent a dramatic technical improvement; I am now much more controlled, and I am able to achieve better results by doing less. I am also much more confident thanks to the scholarship, both in front of a choir/orchestra and in applying for conducting jobs.
I gained so much during the year; I had the opportunity to learn from some inspirational conductors and along the way I made some great new friends who share my passion for conducting.”
Olivia began a Masters degree in choral conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in Autumn 2019, and was appointed Assistant Leader for the London Youth Cambiata Girl’s Choir in October of that year.
“Being a Young Conducting Scholar on the 2015-16 programme was a huge privilege, and I greatly benefited from the intense training offered, particularly during the group sessions at the conducting weekends and summer school. The continuity throughout the year is a real benefit of the scheme. It allows you to work on specific aspects of your conducting during the year, picking up where you left off last time. I had a wonderful year with SfP and had many positive, memorable and intuitive learning experiences.”
Jack went on to study a Masters degree in choral conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, and has since taken part in a number of international competitions, reaching the semi-finals in the Jazep Vitols International Choral Conducting Competition and the World Choral Conducting Competition in Hong Kong in 2019, and receiving Second Prize at the inaugural London International Choral Conducting Competition in 2018.
“I had never directed a choir when I applied to be a Young Conducting Scholar; I was very fortunate to gain a place and I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done. The tuition is second to none, the people involved in the organisation are now some of my closest friends… and the memories I have from my training will stay with me for a long time. I particularly valued the emphasis on encouraging conductors to think carefully about the singers in front of them, and working to elicit the best choral sound that they, as a group, can achieve.
I would not be where I am today had I not participated in the programme, and I am extremely grateful to all the tutors for their continued support and guidance.”
Helen now conducts a variety of school-based choirs and uses the principles learned from SfP on a daily basis.
“The scholarship made a massive difference. I’m a singer and a pianist, and when I first started conducting choirs, I thought ‘well, I understand singing, I can read the score, and I can play the piano; here we go’. You really have no idea what you’re doing, but my SfP training has given me the right to call myself a conductor. It’s a really holistic approach to conducting; I feel very confident taking on quite epic works now, thanks to my training. And you build a network of professional contacts, alongside the supportive one of SfP friends, tutors, mentors… I hate to sound such a cliché, but it’s been life-changing, absolutely life-changing…”
Neil continues to lead choirs across the north of England, in addition to pursuing his singing career.
David enjoyed a Board level career at the John Lewis Partnership where he held senior roles in Retail, Commercial and Supply Chain. He has relevant experience of a number of non-executive roles, spanning retail, sport, local government, community and voluntary, charity, regulatory and trade bodies. He is a Trustee of the Zoological Society of London and Deputy Chairman of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club.
Lynda worked as Administrator to the Standing Conference for Amateur Music which was then supporting the newly formed Sing for Pleasure organisation. She strengthened her involvement with SfP over more than 25 years, as a volunteer and employee, and as the CEO, ‘grew the business’ from home. Subsequently she joined the Learning Support Team as a Dyslexia Specialist in the London Borough of Newham and also served for 13 years as a magistrate in East London. Singing in choirs and as a soloist has given her great pleasure since her junior school days and she continues to do so now.
Currently a Headteacher in Newcastle, Miles was first involved with Sing for Pleasure at secondary school through his teacher Rosemary Redding. His career has included secondary, special education and 20 years leading primary schools with lecturing at universities on music, maths, creativity and leadership. He has served on a number of boards including Culture Bridge North East, Newcastle Fairness Commission, Schools Northeast and as Chair of Newcastle Cultural Education Partnership. For two years he ran the Concordia Project – a large scale singing in school initiative funded by Paul Hamlin Foundation. He sings in a couple of choirs and is about to embark on new adventures as he leaves headship.
Catherine Beddison is Deputy Head (Operational) at Cranleigh Prep School, which involves overseeing the day-to-day running of the school and provides daily creative challenges of problem solving and innovative thinking. An expert in musical education, she has an impressive track record of setting high standards, enthusing children and adults, and encouraging them to fully develop their musical skills. Catherine specialises in choral work and conducts Cranleigh Prep School Chamber Choir and Cranleigh Choral Society. She has a long-standing respect and great affection for Sing for Pleasure, currently serving as a member of the Trustee board and working as a tutor.
A former “Outstanding” primary school teacher, Ula is a leading conductor, teacher trainer and workshop leader, whose work has taken her around the UK and abroad. Ula sings with the renowned choir Ex Cathedra and is one of their lead education vocal tutors. She co-created Ex Cathedra Education’s internationally acclaimed and award-winning Singing Playgrounds project. A trained choral conductor, Ula currently conducts a number of choirs including the 200-strong CBSO SO Vocal, the CBSO Children’s Chorus and the National Teachers’ Choir. She is Head of Events for the National Choral Organisation, Sing for Pleasure and Choral Programme Director for The People’s Orchestra. When not working, Ula enjoys walking and crafting and is happiest when she is by the sea!
Tomos Watkins is a PhD student in Historical Musicology at University College Dublin. Prior to this he was Director of Music at the Cardiff Oratory in Formation and worked across the UK as a freelance conductor, having graduated from his MMus in Choral Conducting at RWCMD with Distinction in 2018. He also works regularly as a freelance singer and keyboard player. He joined Sing for Pleasure in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since.
Themba Mvula trained as an opera singer at Birmingham Conservatoire, but he has also been heavily influenced by gospel, jazz, pop and African music. He is the musical director of Lichfield Gospel Choir, a community of more than 100 members he has led for over 10 years. He has also worked with many other groups as a choral specialist or workshop leader including Birmingham Opera Company, Ex Cathedra Boys Academy, and The National Children’s Choir of Great Britain. As a soloist he has performed in the UK and abroad with companies including English National Opera, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, and Birmingham Opera Company.
Naomi Berry is a singer and choral director working across the UK and internationally. Having graduated from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with a degree in Vocal and Operatic Studies, she was twice awarded the Corton Hyde Early Music prize and the Leamington Music prize with her consort, The Brindley Consort. Now, she is the choral director for King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Girls, as well as running workplace, chamber and community choirs in the region. Naomi joined the SfP family when she was in Sixth Form and has been joining in the fun ever since.
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Passionate about the arts and education, Suzzie’s high-energy vocal workshops have gained her international reputation with singers of all ages across the UK, Asia, the USA, the UAE and Africa. In demand as a vocal specialist she conducts the National Children’s Choir, Orchestra of the Swan Chamber Choir, Polymnia and Ex Cathedra Girls Academy and has been a guest conductor for ensembles including: Ex Cathedra, CBSO Children’s Chorus and Manchester Chamber Choir. Suzzie is Head of Vocal Studies at Bromsgrove School, Schools Programme Leader for Music of Life Foundation working with children with disabilities, and a tutor for Ex Cathedra Education, composing for their “SingMaker” education resources. She founded and performs in critically acclaimed, all-female, a cappella ensemble Papagena.
Stuart is a choral director based in Manchester. He directs a number of choirs including the Hallè Youth Choirs and Royal Northern College of Music choirs and National Children’s Choir of Great Britain (green choir). He also works across the country leading workshops and training in both education and choral settings.
Sarah has conducted numerous professional and amateur groups including the Hilliard Ensemble, Chamber Choir Ireland, Cape Town Philharmonic, English Baroque and Reading Bach Choirs and Harlow Chorus. She guest chorusmasters the BBC Symphony Chorus and is director of the Dubai Opera Festival Chorus which made its debut at the 2019 BBC Proms Dubai. As a singer Sarah directs leading professional female consort Papagena and is in huge demand as a conducting tutor, working at all major conservatoires, Oxford University, Sing for Pleasure, the Association of British Choral Directors and on BBC2’s TV series ‘Maestro’.
Ruth works for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain in the role of Head of Artistic Planning & Participation and is a senior member of the artistic and management teams. Previous roles include Senior Education Projects Manager at Glyndebourne and Producer (Youth & Community) at Welsh National Opera. Originally from North Wales, she studied at St Edmund Hall Oxford University (with a choral scholarship) then gained a Masters in Music from Bangor University. In addition to arts management, Ruth is a choral conductor and part of the tutor team at Sing for Pleasure, CȃnSing and Morland Choristers’ Camp.
Rebecca Berkley leads the Musicianship for Singers programmes for Sing for Pleasure. Rebecca is an Associate Professor in Music Education at the University of Reading. Specialising in choral education, musicianship and musical leadership, she teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and is a doctoral supervisor. She is also director of Universal Voices, a community choir for children which offers a free choral education to all children in the Reading area, along with training opportunities for aspiring local choral conductors and music education students.
Miles is a choral director, pianist and singer based in Hertfordshire. On completing his music degree at Cambridge, Miles worked for the John Lewis Partnership. On retiring from John Lewis about 10 years ago he has since focused on his choral directing activities principally with ‘open to all’ community choirs. He is an enthusiastic advocate of solfa and helps his singers understand how they can use it to pitch their notes. His principal aim is to help singers perform together to the best of their ability and for them to have fun doing so.
Liz George is a freelance qualified teacher, vocal leader and primary music specialist based in the West Midlands. She has delivered training on Singing with Makaton and on developing musical literacy through ukulele and singing, as well as regular class-based teaching and work with school choirs. Liz is the founder and director of a thriving WI choir, who in 2015 became national finalists in the WI’s ‘Choir of the Centenary’ Competition. Liz has maintained strong links with SfP since completing the Advanced Conducting Course in 2012, and has directed the ever-popular Children’s Singing Week in Walsall since 2017.
Imelda Shirley is an experienced teacher, choral conductor and conductor trainer. She has been associated with Sing for Pleasure for over 30 years, where as a senior conducting tutor, she works on a range of events including its summer schools and acclaimed Vocal Leadership Training Programme (VLTP). She is currently Assistant Head of Wigan Music Service (part of GM Music Hub), taking a lead for Early Years music education and a number of vocal/curriculum projects in schools. Imelda holds an MA in Music Education (IoE/UCL). She currently conducts the Wigan Community Choir and sings with Sine Nomine International Touring Choir.