THE SOUTH LONDON SINGERS formed as a chamber choir in 1982. There are currently some 25 to 30 members (always room for more, if you enjoy singing and have a good voice), and the SLS is now firmly established on the local music scene in the Beckenham area.
The founding conductor of the South London Singers was Derek Williams. John Nightingale took over as Director in 1988 and stayed in this post for the next 25 years. Under his baton, the SLS continued to raise its musical standards and set new musical goals for itself. John helped to develop the choir’s focus on the neglected portions of the English choral repertoire. With its current Director Julian Collings, who took up his appointment in May 2013, the choir seeks to maintain its level of musical attainment as it explores new musical avenues and develops the skills needed to meet new challenges.
English music is a strong element in our programming, but works by a wide cross-section of continental and non-European composers are also performed. The choir has given well-received performances of baroque works, romantic partsongs, and American music. Programmes are designed to complement, rather than compete with, the activities of larger choral societies.
Conductor - Director of Music St George's
Marcus Wibberley is Organist & Director of Music here at St George’s, Beckenham. Since his arrival in August 2017, he has introduced new repertoire and new members to the choir, conducted the choir at a number of cathedrals, worked in conjunction with the Hammig String Quartet and – in July 2018 – will be taking the choir on tour to Estonia, its first foreign tour in a number of years.
Before returning to Beckenham (he was ‘Organ Student’ here in the late 1990s), he was Director of Music & Organist of Hexham Abbey, where his responsibilities included training and directing the Abbey Choirs. In addition to the four weekly choral services at the Abbey, he appeared with them in concert both elsewhere in the UK and in Germany, Belgium and Estonia. Marcus was also Festival Director of the annual Hexham Abbey Festival of Music & Arts, for which he developed the scope of the programme and secured majority funding from the Arts Council of England.
Marcus was a Chorister of Westminster Abbey under Martin Neary, and his organ teachers included Martin Baker and John Scott Whiteley. He studied at Dulwich College, where he was a Music Scholar, and the University of Hull, where he was University Organ Scholar, graduating with first class honours in Music. He held organ scholarships at Chichester Cathedral, Beverley Minster (while a student in Hull) and latterly York Minster before becoming Sub-Organist of Portsmouth Cathedral and the Diocesan Music Adviser of The Diocese of Portsmouth in 2005.
Marcus is in demand as a recitalist, and has travelled extensively. Recent performances have been given in prominent venues in Japan, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Estonia, as well as most of the major cathedrals and abbeys in the UK.
The Hammig String Quartet was formed in 1989, taking its name from the violin-maker Wilhelm Hammig (1838-1925). Over the years the quartet has given many recitals across England and Wales and has made several visits to Leichlingen, Germany. They are frequent performers at St George’s, Beckenham in both the Friday lunchtime and Saturday morning Coffee Concert series, and for other special events and services.
Recital venues have included Concord College Shropshire, the Usher Art Gallery Lincoln, the Atheaneum Bury St Edmunds, St Anne and St Agnes Gresham Street, St Alfege Greenwich, St Mary’s Balham, St Katherine’s Knockholt and the River and Rowing Museum Henley on Thames. They played at Penn House Amersham for the National Society for Epilepsy, and performed as part of the ‘Rochester 1400’ celebrations. Since 2005 they have participated in annual fundraising Celebrity Christmas Carol Concerts for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust at Odiham, and for some years gave fundraising recitals for the Beckenham and Borders branch of the National Childbirth Trust. They have played at St Martin in the Fields with the Bromley Boy Singers in their New Year’s concert, and in several concerts for the South London Singers and Wareham Choral Society. In February 2010 they were invited to join Keziah Thomas for a joint quartet and harp concert in aid of the Romanian Aid Foundation. In May 2011 they played Shostakovich’s 8th quartet in a lecture recital given by Anna Davis at the St George’s Arts Festival. More recently the quartet has given recitals at the Colour House Theatre at Merton Abbey Mills, St Mary’s Bromley, St Nicholas Brighton, St Leonard’s Seaford, St Matthews Westminster, and Purley United Reformed Church. In February 2014 they played at the Mansion House for the Gardeners Livery Company Banquet, in the presence of Prince Edward, and again in 2015. They were honoured to be the inaugural artists in residence at St John’s Catford for the season 2017-18.
Following the death in 2013 of their friend and colleague of more than twenty years, Paul Collen, they explored the string trio repertoire for a few years as well as performing piano quartets with Clare Wibberley, and oboe and cor anglais quartets with Caroline Marwood. In September 2017 they were delighted to welcome Sarah Colley as their new permanent violinist.
Organ & Piano
Alasdair Friend joined the choir at St. George’s in February 1982. He studied the organ at St. Dunstan College in Catford, and was organ student at St. George’s from 1985 to 1987 passing his ARCO exams in 1986. From 1987 to 1990, he was organ scholar of Downing College, Cambridge, where he read Music and History. While at Downing, he conducted the college choirs and orchestra, and sang in a number of university chamber choirs. Since graduating, Alasdair has been assistant organist at a number of London churches, before returning to St. George’s, where he now plays regularly. He has also accompanied various choral societies on tours to Italy, Austria, France and the Czech Republic. When not playing the organ, Alasdair works as a solicitor in London.