Simon Halsey CBE

Photograph of Simon Halsey CBE

Professor and Director of Choral Activities

Contact details

I am a conductor and educator in choral music and particularly proud to try to bring together all the singers of Birmingham, one of the great international centres of choral endeavour.

Qualifications

BA, MA Cantab
Honorary degrees: MA Warwick, DUniv Birmingham City University, DMus University of Birmingham

Biography

Simon Halsey is a sought-after conductor of choral repertoire at the very highest level, and an ambassador for choral singing across the world. He is Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Choruses, and Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir.  Halsey is also Conductor Laureate of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Youth Choral Programme, and Artistic Advisor of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir.  From 2016 he adds the roles of Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser to the  Palau de la Música, Barcelona.

From 2016 he adds the roles of Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser to the  Palau de la Música, Barcelona.  Making singing a central part of these world-class institutions, Halsey has been instrumental in changing the level of symphonic singing across Europe.

Since becoming Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in 2012, Halsey has been credited with bringing about a “spectacular transformation” (Evening Standard) of the LSC. 2015/16 highlights with the LSO include Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Haydn’s The Seasons with Sir Simon Rattle, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with Sir Mark Elder, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas. The choir will also join the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel at the Barbican for a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.3, and sing Rachmaninoff’s Vespers at London Temple Church, with Halsey on the podium.

In addition to its work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Halsey’s CBSO Chorus is in high demand from other leading orchestras. In 2015/16 the choir will travel to Mexico City to perform two concerts with a local choir and the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Alondra de la Parra. Recent highlights include a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the LSC at London’s Royal Festival Hall, celebrating Sir Simon Rattle’s 60th birthday. With the CBSO in Birmingham, the 2015/16 season includes Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with Lahav Shani and Poulenc’s Gloria with Nicholas Collon. At the CBSO Halsey has also founded a Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus, as well as two community choirs in Birmingham and the surrounding area.

Under Halsey’s leadership between 2001-2015, the Rundfunkchor Berlin gained a reputation internationally as one of the finest professional choral ensembles. Halsey also initiated innovative projects in unconventional venues and interdisciplinary formats. He retains a close collaboration with the ensemble in his new position of Conductor Laureate: he will prepare the choir for performances at the Berlin and Paris Philharmonie alongside the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, join a tour to Indonesia as part of the Goethe Institute’s German Days, as well as leading the choir’s extremely popular Sing-Along concerts in Berlin and Vienna.

Further highlights for 2015/16 include the BBC Proms Youth Choir’s first tour, where the choir will perform in Birmingham and at Lucerne Festival with Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle in addition to its usual BBC Proms concert. Also, as a guest conductor, Halsey will perform Brahms’s Requiem with Bournemouth Symphony, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the WDR Symphony Orchestra in Cologne.

As Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Youth Choral Programme Vokalhelden (‘Vocal Heroes’), Halsey leads a long-term education and performance project that brings together children from diverse backgrounds from all over Berlin. Last season they performed the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Was lauert da im Labyrinth (The Monster in the Maze), conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Halsey also prepared the LSO Discovery Choirs and Community Choir for the UK premiere of Dove’s opera, as part of his LSO Sing programme, and the choirs for the French premiere at the Aix Festival, both with the London Symphony under Sir Simon Rattle.

In June 2016, LSO Discovery Choirs and Community Choir will perform the world premiere of The Hogboon, Peter Maxwell Davies’s new children’s opera, with Sir Simon Rattle and students from Guildhall School of Music.

Simon Halsey is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham, where he directs a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting, in association with the CBSO. He is in great demand as a teacher at other universities and has presented masterclasses at top universities such as Princeton and Yale. In 2011 Schott Music published his book and DVD on choral conducting, Chorleitung: Vom Konzept zum Konzert, as part of its ‘Master Class’ series.

Halsey has worked on numerous recording projects, many of which have won major awards, including the Gramophone Award, Diapason d’Or and Echo Klassik.  He has won three Grammy Awards for his recordings with the Rundfunkchor Berlin: 2007, 2008 (Best Choral Performances) and 2011 (Best Opera Performance). As part of a new relationship with Deutsche Grammophon, Halsey and the Rundfunkchor Berlin recorded Spheres with violinist Daniel Hope, as well as Morgenlicht, a choir-only recording of German hymns, both released in 2013. Highlights of his discography with the CBSO Chorus on EMI Classics include Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with CBSO, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle; and Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with CBSO, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and Arleen Auger.

Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and of King’s College, Cambridge. He studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1987, he founded with Graham Vick the City of Birmingham Touring Opera (now Birmingham Opera Company). He was Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir from 1997 to 2008 and was also Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia’s Choral Programme from 2004 to 2012.

Halsey was awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music 2014 for his influence on the musical life of the UK, and was also made Commander of Order of the British Empire in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany, Halsey was also given the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011.

Teaching

Teacher of Masters in Choral Conducting at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama; Director of Music at University of Warwick Music Centre; Regular Masterclasses in Hilversum (Netherlands Radio Choir) and Berlin (Berlin Radio Choir); Guest Lecturer and Conductor at Yale University.

Publications

Schott Master Class Chorleitung:

“Vom Konzept zum Konzert” (incl. 2 DVDs)
October 2011
ISBN: 978-3-7957-0755-2, ED 21050

Faber New Choral Works:

Adés, Thomas
Fayrfax Carol, The (SATB unaccompanied)
January Writ (SATB)
Anderson, Julian
I’m A Pilgrim (SATB)
My Beloved Spake (in prep.)
Andrew. Kerry
Maranatha (SATB)
Dove, Jonathan
Ecce Beatam Lucem (SATB)
Into Thy Hands (SATB unaccompanied)
Seek Him That Maketh The Seven Stars (SATB)
Wellcome All Wonders In One Sight! (SATB unaccompanied)
Who Killed Cock Robin? (SATB unaccompanied)
Einfelde, Maija
Ave Maria (SATB)
Goodall, Howard
In Memoriam Anne Frank (SATB)
Jubilate Deo (SATB)
Lord Is My Shepherd, The (Psalm 23) (SATB)
Lord Is My Shepherd, The (Psalm 23) (SSA)
Lord Is My Shepherd, The (Psalm 23) (TTBB)
Love Divine (SATB)
Love Divine (SSAA)
Marlborough Canticles (SATB)
Gordon, Michael Zev
And I Will Betroth You (SATB unaccompanied)
Grier, Francis
Alleluis! I Bring You News (SATB unaccompanied)
Two Advent Responsories (SATB unaccompanied)
Harvey, Jonathan
Remember, O Lord (SATB unaccompanied)
Hayes, Malcolm
Corpus Christi (SATB) (in prep.)
Hindson, Matthew
Home (from Heartland) (SATB)
Keeling, Andrew
Ave Verum Corpus (SATB)
Lauridsen, Morten
Ave Dulcissima Maria (TTBB unaccompanied)
O Magnum Mysterium (SATB unaccompanied)
O Nata Lux (SATB unaccompanied)
L’Estrange, Alexander
e-Motion (in prep.)
Let All The World In Every Corner Sing (in prep.)
Lute-Book Lullaby (SATB)
Lute-Book Lullaby (SATB a cappella/unacc.)
Three Prayers (in prep.)
Marshall, Wayne
Macnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C (SSAA)
Matthews, Colin
Angel’s Carol, The (SATB unaccompanied)
Moore, Philip
Lo! God Is Here! (SATB)
Pitts, Antony
Adoro Te (SATB unaccompanied)
Libera Me/Lamentations 5 (SATB unaccompanied)
Rouwkema, Daniel
Celtic Prayer, A (SATB)
Sculthorpe, Peter
Morning Song (SATB)/Birthday Of Thy King (SSATBB)
Woolrich, John
Spring In Winter (SATB unaccompanied)

Choral Programme Series:

Upper Voices
All The Things You Are (Jazz Classics) (in prep.)
Autumn Leaves (Jazz Classics) (in prep.)
Banuwa (Brewer) (SSAA) (in prep.)
Choral Works (SSA) (Goodall)
Classic English Folksongs (SSA)
Eight Partsongs (Schumann) (SSA)
Eight Romantic Partsongs (Brahms) (SSAA)
Fly Me To The Moon (Jazz Classics) (SSA)
French Motets (SA)
Gaudete! (SSA unaccompanied)
Girl From Ipanema (SSA)
Godspell & Children Of Eden Choruses (SSA)
Good News! (SSAA)
Gospel Christmas, A (SSA)
Liverpool Oratoria Selection (McCartney) (SSA)
Hamba Lulu (Brewer) (SSAA)
How High The Moon (in prep.)
Mamma Mia and other ABBA Hits! (SSA)
Memory & Other Choruses from Cats (SSA)
Merry Christmas Everybody! (SSA)
Six Motets (Fauré and Saint-Saëns) (SA)
Three Carols (Britten) (SA)
Three Partsongs (Schubert) (SSAA_)
Yesterday & other Classic Pop Ballads (SSA)

Mixed Voices (SATB)
All The Things You Are (Jazz Classics) (in prep.)
Autumn Leaves (Jazz Classics) (in prep.)
Banuwa (Brewer)
Chansons Des Roses, Les
Christmas Celebration, A
Christ’s Nativity (Britten)
Classic Victorian Ballads
Easter Celebration, An
English Sacred Music (Tallis)
Fair Oriana
Feel The Spirit
Five American Folksongs
Five Anthems (Purcell)
Five English Folksongs
Five Partsongs (Holst)
Five Spirituals
Five Welsh Carols
Four Partsongs (Schubert)
Fly Me To The Moon (Jazz Classics)
Four Choruses (Dvořák)
Four Sacred Choruses (Mendelssohn)
French Chansons
Girl From Ipanema
Godspell & Children Of Eden Choruses
Gospel Christmas, A
Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Choruses I
Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Choruses II
Great Sacred Choruses (J S Bach)
Great Unaccompanied Motets (Bruckner)
Hamba Lulu (Brewer)
How High The Moon (Jazz Classics) (in prep.)
Irish Folksong Arrangements (Goodall)
King’s Singers Standards Arrangements (Naylor) (in prep.)
Liverpool Oratorio Selection (McCartney)
Madrigali: Six Fire Songs (Lauridsen)
Mamma Mia and other ABBA hits!
Masterpieces Of The French Baroque
Masterworks From The Russian Orthodox Church
Memory & Other Choruses From Cats
Merry Christmas Everybody!
Musicke’s Praier
My Dancing Day
Nocturnes (Lauridsen)
Opera Choruses (Verdi)
Passetime With Good Company (unaccompanied)
Passiontide Masterworks
Ready To Ride!
Seven Partsongs (Parry)
Seven Partsongs (Stanford)
Six Motets (Mozart)
Six Sacred Choruses (Bruckner)
Three Choral Hymns (Vaughan Williams)
Three German Carols
Three Jewish Songs (Skeaping) (in prep.)
Two Early Works (Vaughan Williams) (in prep.)

Discography

Adès: America A Prophesy
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
EMI 57610 (2004)

Anderson: Four American Choruses
City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
BCMG, Sakari Oramo, Oliver Knussen and Martyn Brabbins
NMC D121 (October 2006)

Britten: The Prodigal Son
City of Birmingham Touring Opera, Birmingham Contemparary Music Group
BBC MM74 (1998)

Britten: Lets Make an Opera (DVD)
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Youth Chorus, Coull QuartetArthaus musik (2000), ZDF TV Germany

Bruckner: Mass in E Minor, Motets
City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Orchestra Winds
Conifer CDCF192 (1990)

Jost, Christian: Angst
Berlin Radio Choir, Muiskfabrik
Coviello (July 2006)

Rossini: Petite Messe Solenelle
City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
Conifer CDCF184 (1990)

Various: XL
Berlin Radio Choir
Antony Pitts XL for 40 voices
Harmonia Mundi HMC801873 (2005)

Various: English Partsongs (2 Discs) – works by Elgar, Holst, Delius and Grainger
City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
Conifer 75605517522 (1995)

Various: English Choral Favourites
City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
EMI 09463614992 (2006)

Various: Simple gifts – works by Britten, Copland, Barber and Tippett
Berlin Radio Choir
Coviello (September 2006)

Various: Classic Hymns – works by J.S. Bach, Stanford, Goss, Tallis, Stainer, Wesley, Irvine, Parry and Vaughan Williams
City Of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Orchestra Brass
Conifer CDCF502 (1990)

Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 5550942 (1994)

Beethoven: Christus am Oelberge
Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin
Kent Nagano, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HMC 801802 (2003)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 724355757227 (2003)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Walter Weller, conductor
Chandos 8750

Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust
Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Myung-Whun Chung, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon 028945350028 (1998)

Berlioz: Requiem
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre
Valery Gergiev, conductor
EMI 58118

Bernstein: Mass (2 Discs)
Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester
Kent Nagano, conductor
Pacific Mozart Ensemble, Staats-und Domchor Berlin
Harmonia Mundi / HMC 901840.41 (2005)

Boulanger: Psalm 24 and Psalm 130
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, BBC Philharmonic
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor
Chandos 9745

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 3653932 (2007)

Britten: Britten Collection (8 Disc)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 5757922 (2002)

Britten: Saint Nicolas / Hymn to Saint Cecilia
English Chamber Orchestra, Corydon Singers, Girls of Warwick University Chamber Choir, Choristers Of St George's Chapel Windsor
Matthew Best, conductor
Hyperion CDA66333

Britten: War Requiem
City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 7470342 (1983)

Busoni: Piano Concerto
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus Men
Mark Elder, conductor
Hyperion 67143 (1999)

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDS7495492 (2000)

Haydn: The Creation (2 Discs)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDS7541592 (1991)

Haydn: The Creation
Academy of Ancient Music Chorus and Orchestra
Christopher Hogwood, conductor
Decca 4303972 (1990)

Liszt: Dante Symphony
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda
Chandos 10524 (2009)

MacMillan: Quickening
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Youth Chorus
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Hilliard Ensemble
James MacMillan, conductor
Chandos (2007)

Mahler: Das Klagende Lied
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDM5664062 (1997)

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (2 Discs)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDS7479628 (1987)

Mahler: Symphony No. 3 (2 Discs)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDS5566572 (1998)

Mahler: Symphony No. 3
City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus, Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon 4715022 (2002)

Mahler: Symphony No. 8
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Chorus & Youth Chorus
London Symphony Chorus, Toronto Children's Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 7243 5 57945 2 9 (2005)

Mahler: Symphony No. 8
Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra Berlin
Kent Nagano, conductor
Harmonia Mundi / HMC901858.59 (2005)

Mascagni: Il Piccolo Marat
Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra
Kees Bakels, conductor
GB 21692 (1992)

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 in B flat major ‘Lobgesang’
Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus
Walter Weller, conductor
Chandos 8995 (1991)

Monteverdi: Orfeo
European Voices
Emmanuelle Haim, conductor
Virgin Classics Veritas 45642 (2004)

Orff: Carmina Burana
Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 5578882 (2005)

Poulenc: Gloria
Netherlands Radio Choir, Concertgebouw Orchestra
Mariss Jansons, conductor
RCO Live

Pärt: Collage
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Neeme Järvi, conductor
Chandos 9134 (1993)

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution Op. 74 / Tale of the Stone Flower Op. 11 (Excerpts)
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Neeme Järvi, conductor
Chandos 9095 (1992)

Purcell: Dido & Aeneas
European Voices, Le Concert d’Astree
Emmanuelle Haim, conductor
Virgin 5456042 (2003)

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé / Boléro
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDE5747502 (2001)

Ravel: L'enfant et les sortilèges Ma Mère l’oye (Mother Goose suite)
Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 2641972 (2009)

Schoenberg: Gurrelieder
Berlin Radio Choir, Leipzig Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 5573003 2 (2002)

Schumann: Szenen aus Goethes Faust
Netherlands Radio Choir, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
RCO Live 09001 (2009)

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 ‘Babi Yar’
Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic
Mark Wigglesworth, conductor
BIS – SACD - 1543

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 ‘babi Yar’
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, City of Birmingham Choir, University of Warwick Chorus, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Okko Kamu, conductor
Chandos 8540

Saariaho: L'amour de loin
Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester
Kent Nagano, conductor
Harmonia Mundi (2006)

Stravinsky: Syphony of Psalms/ Symphony in C / Symphony in 3 movements
Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 2 07630 0 (2008)

Syzmanowski: Harnasie
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 3 64435 2 (2006)

Szymanowski: King Roger / Symphony No. 4
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Chorus & Youth Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDS5568232 (1999)

Szymanowski: Stabat Mater / Litany to the Virgin Mary / Symphony No. 3
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDC5551212 (1994)

Tippett: A Child of our Time
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Sir Michael Tippett, conductor
Naxos 8557570 (2005)

Various: Angel Dances, The 12 Cellists from the Berlin Philharmonic
Berlin Radio Choir
EMI 3570302 (2006)

Various: Leaving Home
Schoeneberg: A Survivor from Warsaw
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI 5661362 (1996)

Verdi: Falstaff
Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon DG 471-194-2 (2001)

Wagner: Orchestral Music: Parsifal: Prelude and Good Friday Music / Tannhäuser: Overture / Tristan und Isolde: Vorspiel und Liebestod
Swedish Radio Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon 000098502 (2003)

Walton: Belshazzar’s Feast / Symphony No. 1
Orchestra Chorus Cleveland, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
EMI CDC5565922 (1998)

Wolf: Der Feuerreiter
Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Kent Nagano, conductor
Harmonia Mundi / HMC 901837 (2006)