The Rt Hon Gisela Stuart

We are delighted that Gisela has been our 6th President since 2015. She says “Politicians are often reluctant to admit that they enjoy music and singing. I look forward to continue working with Birmingham Bach Choir because music is important to our wellbeing and Birmingham has so much more to offer than those living here realise. This Choir has contributed to the region’s rich cultural tapestry for a hundred years.”
Gisela was born and raised in Germany. After serving an apprenticeship in bookselling, she moved to Britain in 1974 in order to improve her English and worked in the university bookshop. She did course in Business Studies at Manchester Polytechnic. After setting up the London Book Fair she moved to the Midlands.

She graduated from the University of London in 1993 and for some years was a law lecturer at Worcester College of Technology. She began researching for a PhD in trust law at the University of Birmingham, but after a time, instead, went into politics full-time.

Gisela has had a distinguished career in politics. In 1997 she became the Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Edgbaston and, amongst other things, was Health Minister in the Blair government. She is now a Privy Councillor and served on the Committee, appointed by the Prime Minister, to oversee the Intelligence and Security Services. She edited the political weekly magazine The House. In 2017 she stood down from parliament after 20 years of public service.

Former Presidents:

Sir Wilfred Martineau
1950 - 1958

Stephen Lloyd
1958 - 1987

Denis Martineau
1987 - 2000

Jim Berrow
2000 - 2010

Pauline Round
2010 - 2015
Chairman Philip Bellshaw

Philip Bellshaw has been a keen amateur musician all of his life, playing the violin, piano and organ, singing in numerous choirs and conducting some as well.
Philip Bellshaw has been a keen amateur musician all of his life, playing the violin, piano and organ, singing in numerous choirs and conducting some as well. He is a solicitor at a firm in Walsall, where he specialises in mental health law, and is married to Marion, a second soprano in the Birmingham Bach Choir. Philip joined the choir as a second bass in 2015. As a part-time tribunal judge for the last 20 years he also has plenty of experience in both chairing meetings and in public speaking, skills which he has brought to the choir as its chairman since his election in November 2018.

Past Chairmen

Michael Palmer 1970s - 1991

Nick Fisher 1991 - 1995

Nigel Whitling 1995 - 2002

Nick Fisher 2002 - 2007

Jonathan Spencer 2007 - 2012

Sarah Platt 2012 - 2019
Paul Spicer, Conductor

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 fifteen CDs 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 has set up ground-breaking M.Mus courses for choral conductors at both the Royal College of Music and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he also directs both chamber choirs.
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 great demand as a recording producer and as a composer.

Of his many compositions his most notable are:

- Easter Oratorio, originally commissioned as part of the Lichfield Festival Millennium celebrations. This large scale work was recorded with Birmingham Bach Choir, 2005, receiving critical acclaim. Follow this link to read all reviews It was followed up by Advent Oratorio, first performed in Lichfield Cathedral 2009.

-The Deciduous Cross, a work for choir and winds based on five poems by RS Thomas and premiered in 2003, was commissioned for Paul's tenth anniversary as conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir was premiered by them then recorded by the Whitehall Choir ( which Paul directed until 2016). 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 from Truro Cathedral. A recording of his shorter choral works performed by the choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, was released in 2008.

- Unfinished Remembering is his grand scale choral symphony commissioned by Birmingham Bach choir to commemorate the centenary of WW1. It was given it’s much acclaimed world premiere in Symphony Hall 2015

As a writer Paul Spicer's highly respected biography of his composition teacher, Herbert Howells, was published in August 1998 and has been reprinted twice. His full-scale biography and study of works of Sir George Dyson followed 2014. He has written a highly valued guide to Sir James MacMillan’s choral works and also those of Sir Benjamin Britten. He is now working on a study of Sir Arthur Bliss.

Running choral workshops has become a particular speciality of Paul, or which he is in demand all over the world. He runs his own series of week long and weekend singing workshops in the uK and abroad called The English Choral Experience

In addition Paul is a frequent broadcaster, recording producer, lecturer and popular speaker. He is

a member of the Council and also a lay member of the chapter of Lichfield Cathedral, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Honorary Research Fellow of Royal Birmingham University and an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire and of Victoria College of Music and drama (London) . He is also Chairman of the Sir George Dyson Trust, Trustee of the Gerald Finzi Trust, and, Vice–President of the Herbert Howells Society

Find out more at Paul Spicer's website.

Past Conductors:

Bernard Jackson
1919 - 1927

Dr Allen Blackhall
1929 - 1943

Dr Willis Grant
1947 - 1958

Thomas Tunnard
1958 - 1959

Hamish Preston
1959 - 1964

Dr Roy Massey
1964 - 1966

Richard Butt
1966 - 1992

Andrew Millington
1980 - 1982

(during Richard Butt's sabbatical)

Neil Ferris
Principal Guest Conductor
Martyn Rawles, Accompanist

Martyn Rawles is Assistant Director of Music and Organist at Lichfield Cathedral as well as Musical Director of Lichfield Cathedral's Chamber Choir. He began his music career as chorister at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, where he was inspired to take up the organ by Anthony Pinel. He was subsequently the Burston Organ Scholar at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he read History, serving as Assistant Organist at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in his final year. 2004-06 he was the organ scholar at Gloucester Cathedral, then Assistant Organist at Winchester College.
Whilst at Winchester he gained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists , winning six prestigious prizes, and was subsequently awarded a Silver Medal by the Worshipful Company of Musicians. 2008 his relationship with Lichfield Cathedral began with his role as sub-organist then Cathedral Organist.

In his current role at Lichfield Cathedral he directs both the girl choristers, and Chamber Choir, whilst also playing for the majority of services offered by the Choral Foundation. Additionally he is accompanist to Birmingham Bach Choir, and Lichfield Cathedral Chorus. Martyn is co-Director of the RSCM Northern Cathedral Singers with particular responsibility for the girl choristers. He is a Junior Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire and studies with Henry Fairs.

He has a busy recital programme with recent or forthcoming concerts at St Pauls, St Albans and Ripon cathedrals and The Queens College, Oxford. His CD of transcriptions and other works was well received in ‘Choir & Organ”. He broadcasts on BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4, Classic Fm, as well as BBC1 and ITV television.

Past Accompanists:

Nigel Argust

Michael Higgins
(Director of Music at St John's Wimbledon)

Darren Hogg

Rupert Jeffcoat

Alex Mason
(now Director of Music at Lancing College)

Stuart Nicholson
(now Organist at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin)

Robert Sharpe
(now Director of Music York Minster)

St Mary’s Church, Warwick
Saturday 6 July 7pm
St Alban’s Church, Birmingham 

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Registered Charity Number: 1194569