Q&A with Brian Kay: President of Reigate-based English Arts Chorale

PUBLISHED: 16:47 09 July 2018

Brian Kay conducts Messiah (Photo by Chris Christodoulou)

Brian Kay conducts Messiah (Photo by Chris Christodoulou)


President of the Reigate-based English Arts Chorale and former King’s Singer Brian Kay conducted Britten’s War Requiem at Winchester Cathedral

How are you approaching Britten’s War Requiem? (event occured on 9 June 2018)

It’s a huge challenge for any choir. It’s extremely expensive to put on – it requires an enormous full-size symphony orchestra, an 11-part instrumental ensemble, three experienced soloists, a choir, a boys’ choir and an organ. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to conduct it.

How are you marking the King’s Singers’ 50th anniversary?

In January we had two big concerts in London and one at King’s Chapel in Cambridge where the whole thing started. Almost all the King’s Singers were there for the concerts – it was a wonderful emotional reunion for all of us. The six of us who started it all sat down for a wonderful lunch – it’s the first time we’d sat together for 40 years!

Was there a musician who inspired you?

Sir David Willcocks, the director of music at King’s. I sang in the choir under his direction for three years. It made me resolve to spend as much of my life in choral music as I could. He was president of the Leith Hill Music Festival – when he retired he was succeeded by John Rutter and when he retired in 2016 I was appointed president. I had 21 of the best years of my life as conductor, and passed it on to Jonathan Willcocks, David’s son. I look forward to coming down each year.

Is there a piece of music which has influenced you?

As a 12-year-old I was taken by the school’s director of music to see Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It knocked me sideways and made me start on my journey through music.

What do you listen to at home?

I spent all my working life listening to music. Now I listen purely for pleasure and I don’t listen to anywhere near as much.

What are you reading now?

I read biographies about politicians, composers and historical figures. I’ve just finished an 800-page blockbuster by Simon Heffer about the Victorians called The Age of Decadence.

Which book do you give to others as a gift?

At the moment I would give everybody Gold, about the King’s Singers 50th anniversary. I enjoyed reading it enormously.


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