Hammersmith-based Petros Singers is one of London’s leading amateur chamber choirs. They perform a wide range of music, from baroque to contemporary, from large-scale works to exquisite miniatures.
Celebrating an incredible four decades of making music together, on Saturday 1st July Petros Singers are hosting a celebratory concert ‘The Passing of the Years’ at St Peter’s Church. The concert will feature Jonathan Dove’s eponymous song cycle, along with some old favourites and a newly commissioned work by award-winning composer, Kerensa Briggs.
As proud sponsors of Petros Singers, we had the pleasure of speaking with some members of the choir, Charlotte Lawrie, Laura Mackay, Emma Norris and Richard Scott – who is one of the choir’s founding members – as well as Richard Bannan, their Musical Director, to learn more about the history and experiences of this talented group of singers.
Photo credit: Chris Marchant
History of Petros Singers
Back in 1983, some members of St Peter’s Church choir formed a group known at the time as ‘St Peter’s Singers’ in order to sing more secular works. They were soon joined by a group of similarly minded singers from Ealing and the group expanded to 18 singers.
In 2011, by which time St Peter’s Singers had grown in size to around 30 members, they decided to change their name to Petros Singers.
It was felt that the new name would better reflect the more secular nature of the choir, although we also continue to sing many sacred works. We are now thrilled that this year the 40-strong chamber choir is celebrating four decades of singing together.Charlotte Lawrie, Member of Petros Singers
Founder member, Richard Scott has been singing in the choir for 40 years and when asked how the group has changed, he said:
‘St Peter’s Singers was essentially a very small, startup/amateur group. As Petros Singers, not only is the choir much larger, but the standard of individual and ensemble has been transformed. With a professional singer as our Musical Director, a strong committee and active membership, the choir operates on a bigger musical platform and undertakes correspondingly more challenging projects. While we frequently perform with world-class professionals, soloists are increasingly drawn from our own ranks.’
If you would like to read about the choir’s history in greater detail, you can find out more here.
The Choirs ‘Home’
Located in the historic Black Lion Lane, St Peter’s Church has been their home for rehearsals and many performances for nearly all of the choir’s life.
Performances and concerts
Petros Singers’ concerts are based on both secular and sacred works. They perform at least three concerts each year, with Summer and Christmas being held in West London – usually Chiswick and Hammersmith – and their Easter concert taking place in Central London.
These concerts vary in scale from those with just the choir and piano or organ accompanist to large-scale productions requiring orchestra and soloists.
The choir often performs in prestigious venues including St James’s Piccadilly, The Grosvenor Chapel, Guards’ Chapel in Birdcage Walk and Holy Trinity Sloane Square.
We also perform at one-off special events – in 2018, for example, we had the memorable experience of singing the weekend services at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. And over the years we have arranged overseas tours to such wonderful cities as Paris, Moscow, Venis and Rome.Charlotte Lawrie, Member of Petros Singers
There have been any memorable moments! Being a summer-weekend stand-in choir at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle … what could be better than that?Richard Scott, Founder Member of Petros Singer
Musical Directors and Accompanist
Four Musial Directors have led the choir since 1983, and Petros Singers are now lucky to have Richard Bannan – a professional baritone, conductor, teacher and arranger – who has been in the post since 2016. We spoke with Richard to find out about his previous experiences in the music industry, why he joined Petros Singers and how he is finding it.
Why did you want to become Petros Singers’ Musical Director?
I knew from Duncan Aspden, my predecessor, that the choir had a verve for the unusual and a striving for excellence. That fits the approach I always want to take, whether working with amateurs or professionals.
Could you tell us a little bit about your experience in the music industry?
I was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral and a Choral Scholar at Clare College, Cambridge, so I have been bred for high-level choral singing.
Aside from my work with Petros Singers, I’ve been lucky enough to have sung in some fairly high-profile events in my capacity as a Lay-Clerk of St George’s Chapel – such as the Committal of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Windsor Castle – as well as solo performances across the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia. It’s been a fun ride.Richard Bannan, Musical Director at Petros Singers
What do you love about Petros Singers?
Every week, regardless of repertoire or weather, the singers show up eager to sing, improve their performance and enjoy themselves. I’m quite the evangelist when it comes to choral singing, so getting to stand in front of such a vibrant group is very rewarding. And having just turned 40 myself, it’s a real pleasure to be celebrating with the choir as they mark the same milestone!
What has been your most memorable performance?
I’m always convinced the next performance is going to be the most memorable and, until I’ve achieved that, I probably won’t be satisfied. That said, the choir’s performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor this spring was something rather special. Other than that, it’s hard to see beyond the Queen’s Committal; being so close to such a historically important event was a rare and unforgettable privilege.
How do you join Petros Singers?
Petros Singers is an auditioned chamber choir, but all potential members have a chance to meet and sing with the choir at a couple of rehearsals before singing privately with Richard.
The audition is a relaxed and friendly process with Richard being as interested in finding out what singers may be able to do in the future as hearing what they can do now. Ideally you would bring a short piece you know well (either a solo or a choral extract) and you would be taken through a few exercises to assess your vocal range, sight-reading and ear.
The choir’s next open rehearsals and auditions will take place on 12th and 19th September 2023. Please contact Rick, their membership officer at email@example.com, to register your interest in joining them.
What is included in the membership?
Members hugely benefit from being part of an experienced amateur choir, singing alongside individuals who are committed and engaged, but who also recognise that we are there to have fun on a Tuesday evening! We find it stimulating and rewarding to work towards a common goal, under the guiding hand of our very experienced Musical Director, Richard Bannan, who always strives to offer musical variety and ensure we perform at our best.Laura Mackay, Member of Petros Singers
Petros Singers rehearse on a termly basis, with a concert taking place at the end of each term. These rehearsals are held every Tuesday evening at St Peter’s Church from 8 pm – 9.45 pm and singers are expected to attend the majority of rehearsals.
Ahead of the term, their Musical Director, Richard Bannan, provides a schedule and members are asked to familiarise themselves with relevant pieces before each rehearsal. As one choir member elaborated … ‘of course, members need to do lots of individual practise at home in readiness for each rehearsal, especially in the build-up to a concert!’
Young Singers Bursary Scheme
As part of their charitable endeavours, Petros Singers have a bursary scheme open to anyone aged 16–27 who successfully auditions with them. This provides the individuals with a free place in the choir along with a free lesson each term with Toby Ward (their professional singing teacher).
Most importantly, bursary members have the opportunity to make music with an experienced, knowledgeable and friendly chamber choir that provides a welcoming environment for young singers looking to increase their knowledge and share the enjoyment of singing.
We spoke with Emma Norris, Horton and Garton bursary holder, about her experience at Petros Singers.
What motivated you to join Petros Singers, and what do you think you have gained from singing with the choir?
Amidst the busyness of modern life, many of us forget to give ourselves an opportunity for expression. For me, singing provides just that – an opportunity to switch off and express emotion through music. I was delighted to join Petros Singers last year to reignite my passion for music, improve my sight reading, and sing new (and, incidentally, highly challenging!) music. Happily I’ve managed to achieve all that, as well as learning from my fellow singers and Richard who has such a wealth of musical knowledge and expertise.
What do you think you, as a young singer, bring to the choir?
I believe a choir is as much about its community as its sound. There’s a real joy in singing with people of all ages and backgrounds. While I don’t think I bring anything particularly unique by being a young singer, I do hope I can bring a smile to every rehearsal!
Do you think that bursary schemes are important in developing young singers’ potential?
Absolutely! Bursary schemes are so important for opening up choral singing to people who might not otherwise have access. It’s a real privilege being the Horton and Garton bursary holder, I have felt welcomed and valued in the choir, and the opportunity to have 1:1 singing lessons during rehearsals has given me a greater awareness of my own technique.
Petros Singers support a range of charities in various ways, from carol singing and concerts performed with fund raising as the main purpose, to charity collection boxes at the end of concerts and making donations from proceeds of their concerts.
Since 2021, Petros Singers have supported London Youth Choirs. The charity has a mission to unlock young people’s potential through the power of choral singing and runs 10 choirs across London. Petros Singers are thrilled that LYC West, based in Ealing, will be joining them to sing at their 40th-anniversary concert.
Like Petros Singers, London Youth Choirs celebrates an anniversary this year – their 10th – and recently put on an extraordinary concert at the Royal Albert Hall. A few members of Petros Singers were lucky enough to attend and were completely bowled over.
The sheer excitement and buzz of energy was almost addictive! The work LYC does in bringing the joy, shared community and fun of singing to young people is a wonderful thing, and we are so proud to be a supporter.Laura Mackay, Member of Petros Singers
Petros Singers Workshops
In the 1990s the choir started holding workshops to enable them to develop specific aspects of musical technique or prepare for special concerts. For example, one workshop was devoted to singing in German in preparation for performing Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
These workshops later became open to the public and have become hugely popular. Led by well-known and respected singers or choral conductors, each workshop focusses on either a specific composer, theme, or a single work. The workshops are a great introduction to the choir if you are thinking of joining.
Petros Singers next workshop
To continue their 40th-anniversary celebrations this year, the choir is holding a workshop exploring Thomas Tallis’ extraordinary 40-part choral motet, Spem in Alium.
This workshop is a little different in that it is a full-day event culminating in a recital. As Spem in Alium is quite a complex work, composed for eight choirs of five voice parts, Petros Singers are inviting amateur and young singers with some experience to take part.
There will be eight individual workshop groups with each being run by a professional singer, including world-class soprano Miriam Allen and Nick Ashby, a member of The King’s Singers and Petros Singers’ patron.
The day will culminate with all eight choirs coming together to perform Spem in Alium at St Peter’s Hammersmith, their ‘home’ church. This ticketed recital will be open to all-comers and the audience will also have the immense privilege of hearing all the workshop leaders perform, as well as Richard Bannan, the choir’s Musical Director.
Special ticket offer for Horton and Garton readers
Petros Singers’ 40th-anniversary concert is being held on Saturday 1st July and tickets are available on their website here. A 10% discount off all tickets is available by entering the code H&G10 during checkout.
Find out more about Petros Singers
If you are interested in joining Petros Singers, coming to one of their concerts, participating in one of their incredible workshops, or supporting them in any other way, please visit their website here.
Moving to West London
If you’re looking to sell, let, rent or buy in West London, please do get in touch with us to talk about your requirements.