Hailing from Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire, I began singing by accident as a child. I first learned by watching old musicals on TV, and joining in with recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. I combined these diversions with spending many lost hours playing a piano kept in my Grandma’s garage, and thus convinced my parents to send me to piano and singing lessons. When I was 8, they also managed to afford fees for me to attend a private choir school. Unfortunately I was unable to join the choir as I was not a boy, and so I continued my education at a local grammar school. There was no opportunity for me to sing in a choir again until I joined the National Youth Choir at 16, and then the World Youth Choir at 19. In the meantime, I was accepted to study singing at the Royal Northern College of Music with John Noble. I also continued my education at the Britten-Pears School (now Britten Pears Arts) with Ruth Drucker, Phillis Bryn Julson and Ben Luxon. After graduating from RNCM, I moved to London, continued to receive coaching from Diane Forlano, Martin Isepp and Paul Hamburger, and began to work professionally as a singer. Since then, I have been lucky enough to perform all over the world, as a solo concert artist and ensemble member.
More recently as my family has grown and my three children required my presence, I have adapted my work to be in London most of the time. I have thus built a teaching practice at the core of my work-life balance. I am currently a visiting singing teacher at Westminster School, King’s College School, Wimbledon, and at the University of Oxford.
In the twenty five plus years that I have been working as a singer and teacher, it has become increasingly apparent to me that I have not followed any established route into my profession. I do not come from a family of musicians, I had not even heard of a choral scholarship until it was far too late to apply for one. Yet, in my everyday working life I was unwittingly perpetuating a system whereby singers like myself might never be discovered, and allowed to flourish. Singing should not be a club exclusive to those who have the ‘right’ background. Vox Urbane is my way of changing the outcomes of talented young singers no matter where they are from.
I am a musician, raised in a British and West Indian family, with both a Jamaican father and paternal grandfather. I grew up in Northampton attending local state schools and received my musical education as a chorister at St Matthew’s, Northampton. I also attended the local music school orchestras and bands, and was fortunate to take private instrumental and singing lessons. In 1986 I became the Choirboy of the Year which led to 18 months of professional work on television, radio, recordings and concerts. These experiences fuelled the fire within me to commit to a life of music making.
I went on to become a choral scholar at Wells Cathedral, and then Durham Cathedral, where I also read Music at the University. I studied singing with Peter Wilson, and following this, I embarked on a 10 year career as a professional singer in London continuing to have singing lessons with Richard Smart and Nicholas Powell.
While my career as a singer developed, I was mentored in conducting by Rumon Gamba and Mark Shanahan. I now enjoy a multidisciplinary career as conductor, teacher and composer. I conduct choirs including Lewisham Choral Society, The Hackney Singers and Citibank workplace choir. I am a regular Visiting Musical Director for the professional choirs of St Brides, Fleet St, and St Paul’s, Knightsbridge. I have also conducted ensembles including The London Mozart Players, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornets, and the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra. I am the Musical Director of the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain, Head of Vocal Studies at Dulwich College, and I am increasingly being commissioned to compose new original works for choirs and education projects.
I have always enjoyed a wide variety of musical styles, from preparing professional choruses for the BBC Proms, through to my life-long exploration of gospel music from my Caribbean heritage. I have an abiding love of pop music that has culminated in my directing and producing a recent Christmas No.1 single.
As a man of mixed heritage, I am proud of all of facets of my background. However, I have long been troubled by the lack of racial diversity in classical choral music in the UK. While I have never encountered direct racial discrimination at work, I have often felt like a lone figure. There are very few black, ethnic, or mixed race choral singers and musical directors to relate to. In order for this industry to reflect the rich diversity of our society, those who come into it should be able to see others like themselves, around and ahead of them. My continuing journey in the music industry has led inevitably to the founding of Vox Urbane. It is my hope that VU can be an example, and provide a pathway to others who wish to follow a life in music, from all backgrounds.