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Musical Director - Chris Phelps


Chris first trained as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral under the famous organist and composer, Herbert Sumsion.  Playing the piano and having organ lessons with John Sanders, Chris then studied at the Royal College of Music in London, winning the Turpin prize for the FRCO and coming joint second in the Walford Davies competition.


He was organist and choirmaster at Armagh Cathedral for three years before moving to Vienna to study conducting with Hans Swarowsky at the Akademie für Musik.  Whilst in Vienna he also studied in Italy and Salzburg.  Chris won the Young Conductor’s prize in Salzburg and the deuxième mention in Besançon.


He has worked with many distinguished musicians, including Nigel Kennedy, John Lill, John Ogden and Leon Goossens, and also had the opportunity to work in a masterclass with the late Herbert von Karajan.


In addition to conducting, Chris is a transcriber, orchestrator and arranger.  His orchestrations of César Franck’s Chorale No. 2 and of Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on ‘BACH’ have been recorded for the ASV White Line label by the City of Prague Philharmonic and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia respectively.  The Colchester Symphony Orchestra has performed Chris’ orchestration of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, whilst his arrangement for choir of Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures’ has been performed at Snape.


From 1973 to 2006 he worked at the Colchester Institute, Centre for Music and Performing Arts.  He was, at various times, Course Tutor for the BA (Hons) Music degree, and Course leader for the Graduate Diploma and the Joint Degree with Essex University.  During this period his conducting also included that of the Ipswich Orchestral Society, the Essex Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of the Colchester Institute.


Chris has been Musical Director of the Colchester Symphony Orchestra since 1983, and of Hadleigh Choral Society since 1991.  He also conducts the Kelvedon Singers, with whom he has performed at Cahors Cathedral; Liverpool Cathedral; St Luke’s, London; and the Menim Gate.  Over the years he has conducted in Berlin, Bucharest, Dublin and London.