Paul Spicer
BiographyPaul Spicer Biography

Paul Spicer began his musical training as a chorister at New College, Oxford. He studied with Herbert Howells and Richard Popplewell (organ) at the Royal College of Music in London, winning the top organ award (the Walford Davies Prize) in his final year.

Paul is best known as a choral conductor, partly through the many CDs he made with the Finzi Singers for Chandos records. He conducted Bach Choirs in Chester and Leicester before moving to conduct the Bach Choir in Birmingham in 1992. He also conducts the Whitehall Choir in London and is Conductor of the Petersfield Musical Festival. He taught at the Royal College of Music in London between 1995 and 2008. He now teaches choral conducting at the Birmingham Conservatoire, where he also directs both chamber choirs, and at Oxford and Durham Universities. The Birmingham Conservatoire’s principal chamber choir has an increasing recording presence. It’s first disc To Music was outstandingly reviewed by MusicWeb International who described it as ‘one of the finest discs to have come my way in a long time’. Their recording of music by James MacMillan and Kenneth Leighton was attended by MacMillan and was released in April 2011 and has received five star reviews. Part songs by Ireland and Delius were recorded for Somm Records in July 2011 to be released in Spring 2012. A first ever recording of Stanford part songs will be recorded in July 2012 including a number of world premiere recordings and rare Howells was recorded with more first recoerdings in June 2013.

Until July 2001 Paul Spicer was Artistic Director of the Lichfield International Arts Festival and the Abbotsholme Arts Society, posts he relinquished in order to pursue a freelance musical career. He was Senior Producer for BBC Radio 3 in the Midlands until 1990 and today is in considerable demand as a composer. He has also been a much sought-after recording producer and, in particular, has produced over forty recordings with the organist Christopher Herrick.

The first complete recording of Paul Spicer’s large-scale Easter Oratorio, originally commissioned as part of the Lichfield Festival Millennium celebrations, was released in 2005 and has received considerable critical acclaim, the work being recognised by Gramophone Magazine as 'the best of its kind to have appeared... since Howells's Hymnus Paradisi'. It was also chosen as Editor’s Choice in the same magazine. The Deciduous Cross, a work for choir and winds based on five poems by RS Thomas and premiered in June 2003, was commissioned for Paul's tenth anniversary as conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir and was recently recorded by the Whitehall Choir. It was described as ‘a deeply-felt composition, almost intoxicatingly melodic throughout to create a chaste kind of spiritual ecstasy in which elements of reviving nature figure strongly’. A recording of his complete works for organ, played by Robert Sharpe, was released in 2006 from Truro Cathedral, and a recording of his shorter choral works performed by the choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, was made in 2008. Individual works appear on discs by various artists and his Kiwi Fireworks for organ has been recorded five times. Paul’s new large-scale choral and orchestral work, Advent Oratorio, to another libretto by renowned New Testament scholar, Bishop Tom Wright, who wrote the text for the Easter Oratorio, was premiered in Lichfield Cathedral on 5 December 2009. His most recent major commission is a choral symphony, Unfinished Remembering, commemorating the centenary of the first World War in 2014. The poet Euan Tait has written the libretto.

Paul Spicer's highly acclaimed biography of his composition teacher, Herbert Howells, was published in August 1998 and has been reprinted twice. He has recently completed a full-scale biography and study of works of the composer Sir George Dyson. He was awarded a major grant by the British Academy to take a sabbatical period to further the research for this work. His English Pastoral Partsongs volume for OUP is widely used. As a writer he has written countless articles for many periodicals and is a contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography. He has twice written an overview of all James MacMillan’s choral music commissioned by Boosey & Hawkes, his publishers. Updates are continuous. Boosey and Hawkes commissioned a practical guide to the choral music of Benjamin Britten for his centenary in 2013 and Paul has given many lectures and workshops of Britten's music during the centenary year.

Besides these major projects Paul Spicer is in great demand for his choral workshops which take him all over the world. In July 2011 he gave a the first Proms Extra choral workshop on Havergal Brian’s giant Gothic Symphony for the Proms. He runs an annual choral course/Arts Festival called the English Choral Experience at Abbey Dore in the Golden Valley of Herefordshire (www.englishchoralexperience.co.uk) each July. This has now expanded to field a post-Easter course in the south of France. He is a broadcaster, lecturer (he gives a lecture on Elgar’s Caractacus at the Three Choirs Festival in August 2011) and popular speaker.

Paul Spicer is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Honorary Research Fellow of Birmingham University, an Honorary Fellow of University College, Durham, an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire, a Trustee of the Finzi Trust, Chairman of the Finzi Friends, Vice-President of the Herbert Howells Society, Advisor to the Sir George Dyson Trust and Visiting Fellow to the Loughborough Endowed Schools.

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