Finchley Choral Society - Biographies
Grace Rossiter - Music Director
Grace has been Music Director of Finchley Choral Society since 2007. FCS has thrived since her appointment, performing both favourite works including Bach Christmas Oratorio, Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil, Orff Carmina Burana and Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, as well as lesser-known choral gems including Holst Hymn of Jesus, Kodaly Missa Brevis, Jonathan Dove The Passing of the Year and the premiere of Richard J. Harvey’s On the Beach at Night commissioned by the choir in 2011. Keen to develop and challenge the choir, Grace has conducted FCS performances in the Wye Valley and on tour in Holland in 2012. They mounted a joint concert of British choral music with the Finchley Children’s Music Group at St John’s, Smith Square in 2013. In 2014, FCS worked with leading vocal ensemble EXAUDI on contemporary choral repertoire, workshopping pieces by John Cage, Stephen Chase, Alvin Lucier and Howard Skempton. Later that month both groups performed a programme of contemporary settings alongside Scarlatti’s Dixit Dominus at St Giles, Cripplegate.
The Finchley Children’s Music Group has been under her direction since 2001, and she has prepared the choir for major choral works conducted by Kurt Masur, James Levine, Richard Hickox and Sir Colin Davis as well as large-scale events such as singing with Madonna at Wembley for Live Earth. With FCMG, Grace has premiered choral works by James Weeks, John Pickard, Richard Sisson, Ian Stephens and Terry Mann. She conducted the London premiere of Michael Finnissy’s opera Mankind, and the premiere of Malcolm Singer’s opera The Jailer’s Tale staged at the artsdepot with FCMG and the Yehudi Menuhin School Orchestra, with further performances at The Menuhin Hall and the Southbank. Grace has worked on other collaborative projects with FCMG, conducting Terry Mann’s score for Common Dance choreographed by Rosemary Lee for Dance Umbrella, and most recently on Carl Davis’ Last Train to Tomorrow at the Roundhouse, conducting a subsequent concert performance on Holocaust Memorial Day for BBC2. Grace made her BBC Proms debut with FCMG in 2004, conducting the children’s chorus in a performance of Britten’s War Requiem with the LSO. In the same year she released a Christmas disc with FCMG, Bethlehem Down (Naxos), to critical acclaim. Current projects include a recording of works commissioned by FCMG to mark the choir’s 60th anniversary in 2018.
In addition to her work and a vocal coach and choral trainer, Grace also works as an arranger and composer in collaboration with her husband Stephen Jeffes. She conducted the premier of their large-scale unaccompanied work The Elements, written for the BBC Singers and 500 young singers from Harrow Schools, at the Roundhouse in 2013. Her arrangement of The Angel Gabriel was recorded on FCMG's disc Bethlehem Down, and was later recorded by the BBC Singers, for their series of modern British carols for Radio 3’s Breakfast programme.
She has recorded for Naxos, film, radio and television, and has performed throughout the UK, Europe and Australia.
Richard Harvey - Accompanist and Organist
Richard was born and brought up in the West Country, where he accompanied the local church choirs in their annual performances of Messiah and Elijah. He received his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied organ with Alan Harverson and harmony with Dr Eric Thiman. While there he was awarded the Margaret and Sydney Lovett Prize for church organ accompaniment.
Besides his role as rehearsal pianist to the Finchley Choral Society and
the St Albans Choral Society, Richard is an organ recitalist, piano teacher and composer.
His musical Crosswords (written for St John’s United Reformed Church, New Barnet where he has been organist since 1977) was published by Stainer and Bell. In December 1996 he won first prize in Stanmore Choral Society’s Golden Jubilee Competition. His winning composition was a setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Everyone Sang, which received its first performance in June 1997 and which Finchley Choral Society performed in June 1998. In 1999 he was commissioned by Lyonsdown School, New Barnet, to compose a musical The Snow Queen for the millennium year, which received its first performance in June 2000.
In 2006 Finchley Choral Society commissioned a work Echo to be performed as part of its Mozart 250th birthday concert. Written for soprano solo, SATB choir and string orchestrait is a setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti. The première took place in November 2006 and it has since been performed by St Albans Choral Society, who commissioned him in 2009 to compose a carol suite This Endris Night for their Christmas concert. In 2011, Finchley Choral Society commissioned him to write a short a cappella piece On the Beach at Night (a setting of a Walt Whitman poem) with which to mark his 25th year as its rehearsal accompanist.
In April 2013 his cantata The Bridge, for soprano and baritone soloists, choir and chamber ensemble, was performed as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations at St John’s URC. Singers from Finchley Choral Society joined with the church choir and the soprano solo was sung by Aine Cook. In November that year St Albans Choral Society gave the première of a seven-movement Vespers, again set for soprano and baritone soloists, choir and chamber ensemble. It will be receiving its second performance, by the Johannesburg Bach Choir, in October. Richard’s new carol Chanticleer was the winner of a competition organised by Crouch End Festival Chorus for a carol with which to celebrate its 30th anniversary year, and received its first performance in December 2014.