Our musicians

Musical Director: Peter Gambie

Peter Gambie studied music at Dartington College and Reading University. In the 1970s, Dartington was a unique mixture of hippy culture and fans of Renaissance music, so Peter learnt to be a conductor as well as a sitar player. He also spent many hours in an electronic music studio, much to the despair of his singing and violin tutors.

His early career was a mix of teaching music in schools in Hampshire and composing weird-sounding electronic music, some of which was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (often to audiences of less than ten people). Radio 3 also broadcasted Peter’s compositions but it is not known whether anyone listened.

Realising that electronic music wasn’t catching on, Peter focussed on teaching, establishing a method of music education which became a model for secondary schools across the county and beyond (until successive governments decided that music in schools was a luxury).

But he was still searching for something, until…he became The Renaissance Choir’s conductor in 1992, which has provided him with some of his richest musical experiences.

“A marriage made in heaven” is his summary, describing the many wonderful moments they share in their quest for musical perfection. The choir seeks professional standards and understanding, constantly challenging themselves with music of increasing complexity. Empathy between conductor and choir is central to high-quality performances: both parties are fortunate that this quality is developed to an advanced degree. Even a twitched eyebrow brings the appropriate response.

Peter is proud of his long association with Southampton Choral Society. His nine years on the podium have included performing with Dame Emma Kirkby; scooping a £10,000 Community Arts Award from the BBC which resulted in the commission of a major work about slavery; and performances of the standard classical repertoire for orchestra and large chorus, including an original version of Orff’s Carmina Burana involving video images, Bach’s B minor Mass and St Matthew Passion, Mozart’s Requiem and many more.

Assistant Musical Director: Malcolm Keeler

Malcolm graduated with a degree in Music from Royal Holloway College, University of London, where he studied Organ with John Porter. As a member of their Schola Cantorum he sang in many of the cathedrals in Southern England. For eleven years he was organist and choirmaster of St Mark’s church in Portsea. He has performed as a soloist for the Lee Singers and for the Midhurst Music Society. He has accompanied visiting choirs at a number of Cathedrals including Manchester, Durham, Newport, Llandaff and Salisbury.

Besides being the Assistant Musical Director of the Renaissance Choir, Malcolm is the conductor of the Portsmouth Baroque Choir.

Alex Poulton: our vocal coach

Alex gives 20-minute singing lessons to everyone in the choir, during the course of rehearsals, to improve vocal technique.

Alex has performed in recital in major festivals and leading concert venues around the world including Wigmore Hall in London and De Doelen in Rotterdam. His core repertoire includes the three Schubert’s song cycles. He also sings art songs for BBC television and has appeared on ITV. His operatic roles include Figaro in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Falke in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Doctor and Marquis in Verdi’s La Traviata, for Focus Opera, Chiswick House, London, Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Zeist Opera Festival, Netherlands, The Indian in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride for the Mid Wales Opera, Cascada in Lehar’s The Merry Widow and Sharpless in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly for a US Tour presented by Columbia Artists.

He has also performed El Dancaïro and Morales in Bizet’s Carmen with the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra at Huddersfield Town Hall, Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Southdowns Choir, J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Exeter Chamber Choir and Devon Baroque and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with The New Elizabethan Singers in the UK. He graduated in singing from the Birmingham Conservatoire. He won the Reginald Vincent Lieder Prize and was awarded the Joseph Weingarten Memorial Trust Scholarship to study lieder at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest.

Alex is the vocal coach for the Southampton Choral Society, the Portsmouth Choral Union and the Renaissance Choir. He also runs three hugely successful vocal practices along the South Coast of England.

Karen Kingsley: our concert accompanist

Karen gained her GRSM and LRAM diplomas in piano and piano accompaniment at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was awarded several prizes and commendations. Whilst at the Academy she performed Gershwin’s piano concerto and Shostakovich’s 2nd concerto. She has played in masterclasses with John Barstow, Peter Katin and Roger Vignoles.

A graduate of and prize-winner at the Royal Academy of Music, Karen had the privilege of playing to Lutoslawski, the Polish composer and playing concertos with the college ensembles.

According to a press report, Karen is a ‘soloist with a smile on her face and a smile in her heart’ – a statement with which listeners to any of her performances will wholeheartedly agree.

She is a local favourite and is now a national celebrity following her debut on BBC TV in April 2010 accompanying Sam Moffitt in the Brass Section Final of the BBC Young Musician competition and on BBC Radio 3 earlier this year with Robert Blanken and Richard Moore playing the World Premiere of Anthony Hedges’ trio called Three Humours for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano.

In addition to all her concerto, chamber, solo playing and accompanying commitments, Karen is Head of Keyboard at Portsmouth Grammar School – a post she so enjoys that she can’t remember exactly how long she has held it! She thinks it’s about 9 years. In her spare time Karen enjoys playing tennis, collecting factual magazines about crime, playing Scrabble and watching ‘Countdown’ on television.

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