The Ashdown Singers, a chamber choir of thirty voices, gave their first performances in 1976. The aim at the choir’s formation was to have a group of experienced singers capable of performing major works and yet also able to sing madrigals and part-songs in an intimate and authentic manner.
Performances have included Classical Masses by Haydn, Mozart and Schubert and have ranged in style and scale from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (performed in Brighton in 2008 with The Prince Regent’s Musicians) to demanding twentieth-century repertoire such as the Requiems of Maurice Durufle and the Canadian composer Eleanor Daley.
The choir is essentially a five part unit as much repertoire needs two soprano lines, but frequently divides further to sing pieces for double choir in eight or more parts.
Charitable work is an essential part of the choir’s ethos. We are a “collective” – no-one directly associated with the choir receives any fee for the normal pattern of rehearsal and concerts—and over the years many thousands of pounds have been raised for local and national charities and causes. Singers are drawn from across East Sussex, and the choir is equally at home performing in village churches or cathedrals and concert halls and has broadcast on local radio. If you are interested in hiring the Ashdown Singers for your event, please email our chairman Howard Burgess.
Richard Walshaw, Musical Director of the Ashdown singers.
Richard was a music scholar at Shrewsbury School, and organ scholar of Hatfield College, University of Durham, where he read Music. He entered the teaching profession in 1980, and was Director of Music at The Judd School, Tonbridge from 1991 till the end of 2012. A brief spell of part-time teaching in the mid 1980s enabled him to read for the M.Mus degree at the University of Surrey, which included organ performance and composition. In 1986, his setting of the Eucharist for cathedral choir and organ won the Norwich Contemporary Church Music Festival’s Composing Prize. The work was subsequently published by Oxford University Press, and movement s from it were broadcast on Radio 3 by The BBC Singers in 1995.
Richard has conducted many major choral and orchestral works, both at schools and during his directorship of several choral societies. In 1986, he reached the final of Sainsbury Award for a Young Choral Conductor, and subsequently briefly studied conducting with Colin Metters. As well as his current directorship of The Royal Tunbridge Wells Orpheus Male Voice Choir, he was, until 2015, also Director of Music at St Martin’s Church, Brasted, a post he relinquished upon the ordination of his wife Caroline, and her installation as self-supporting Curate in the parish of Pembury. Richard is much in demand as an accompanist on piano and organ, and has played continuo in many of the major Baroque choral works, with a number of internationally famous soloists.
Richard was an officer in the Combined Cadet Force from 1989 till 2015. In his new-found spare time, he is hoping to train as a volunteer debt counsellor, and often assists Tonbridge Philharmonic Society as a violist and occasional pianist.
Terence Steele, Honorary Life President of the Ashdown singers.
Having formed the Ashdown Singers in 1976 and been Musical Director from then up until his retirement in 2016, Terry’s role is now more ‘behind the scenes’. He began his career in Shropshire as organist and master of the choristers at Oswestry Parish Church, and also Conductor of Oswestry Choral Society. A graduate of Bristol and Nottingham Universities, Terry also trained at the Royal School of Church Music. As an organist he has played in concerts and recitals across Britain and Europe. Terry was Head of Music at Priory School, Lewes, and has been heavily involved with the East Sussex County Music Service, playing the organ for the East Sussex Schools Festival at the Royal Albert Hall, and as conductor of the East Sussex Community Choir.
The Ashdown Singers: the early days.
Howard Burgess: Chairman
Angela Wilkes: retiring Treasurer
Jackie Nolan: Treasurer designate (co-opted member)
Rhona Condon: Secretary
Norman Wood: Member
Bridget Stevenson: Member
Gareth Looker: Publicity co-ordinator