DIANA WREN: Top composer is choir’s new musical director

Thomas Neal is Portsmouth Festival Choirs new musical director. He is also an acclaimed composer
Thomas Neal is Portsmouth Festival Choirs new musical director. He is also an acclaimed composer
The Southsea Alternative Choir  Picture: Paul Windsor

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PORTSMOUTH Festival Choir starts rehearsing for its 2017 season soon with a new musical director.

He is Thomas Neal, who made a name for himself at Cambridge as assistant conductor of two well-known choirs and by starting a choir of his own, the Clare Consort, with whom he toured internationally.

Originally from the north- east, Thomas has worked closely with the celebrated Cleveland Philharmonic Choir.

His first postgraduate post was musical director at Saint Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate.

He spent a year teaching music in France and has recently been appointed to the music department of Portsmouth Grammar School.

His appointment to the Festival Choir continues a tradition of co-operation between the choir and the school.

A composer as well as a conductor, one of Thomas’s pieces was shortlisted for this year’s Radio Three Christmas Carol competition.

His carol was performed on radio by the BBC Singers over the Christmas period.

He is now looking forward to preparing the Portsmouth Festival Choir for its Easter concert.

It will sing a programme of music by Czech and Russian composers.

The main work will be Dvorak’s beautiful Mass in D, a melodious and accessible work very characteristic of this composer’s style.

The evening will include three shorter works by Tchaikovsky, Janacek and Stravinsky.

However, Thomas’s first appearance with the choir will be on Saturday, February 11, when he will direct a Come and Sing Day at St Paul’s Church, Chichester.

The work to be prepared is an old favourite, Handel’s Messiah.

Singers of all abilities are invited to join Thomas and the Festival Choir to spend a day preparing choruses from the work. This will be followed by a performance with young soloists at the end of the day.

The day runs from 11am to 5pm and costs £15.

For more details go to portsmouthfestivalchoir.co.uk

New singers are always welcome to join the Festival Choir.

We are a friendly group of enthusiasts who rehearse every Monday at Portsmouth Academy for Girls, next door to St Mary’s Church, Fratton.

Interested singers can contact membership secretary, Hilary Munro on (023)
9247 0532, or just come along to a rehearsal at 7 p.m.