About Harmonia Sacra and their Musical Director
Formed by their conductor, Peter Leech, in 2009, principally for the performance of late Renaissance and Baroque choral works, as well as contemporary choral music, Harmonia Sacra has gone from strength to strength with critically acclaimed performances in widespread UK venues such as St George's, Bristol, Wells Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol and All Saints, Oystermouth. Described by the Bristol Evening Post as 'a fine body of singers' the choir is well known in Bristol for its ever popular annual Advent Reflections concert at the church of St Thomas the Martyr, and has released three CDs on the Nimbus Alliance label, the first two, Cherubim and Seraphim and Princely Splendour, having received rave reviews from prominent critics at Classical Net, MusicWeb International and elsewhere. The third CD, Lux Memoriaque, was released on the Nimbus Alliance label in October 2017, featuring mostly first recordings of contemporary choral works by Robert Hugill, David Bednall, Jonathan Lee, Lawrence Whitehead and Peter Leech. In 2015 the choir collaborated with Cappella Fede for a landmark Toccata Classics CD, The Cardinal King (released in 2016), featuring first recordings of choral music composed for Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart (1725 -1807), which has received estatic reviews in numerous online music magazines, as well as BBC Radio 3 Record Review. In September 2017 Harmonia Sacra undertook a tour to Rome, where they gave concerts in S Lorenzo in Damaso, and SS Dodici Apostoli, featuring the first modern performances of sublime choral works by eighteenth-century Roman composers originally performed in those churches but forgotten for over 200 years. The choir's performance at the Capitular Mass in St Peter's Basilica was highly praised by Tarcisio Cola (Prefect of the Cappella Giulia) as one of the finest guest choral performances in St Peter's in recent years.
Peter Leech is a professional conductor, musicologist, composer and singer. He studied singing with Robert Dawe at the Elder Conservatorium of Music (Adelaide), later undertaking classes with Gerald English, Dame Joan Hammond at the Victorian College of the Arts opera studio (Melbourne). From 1997-99 he was a Tenor deputy for the choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford and from 2000-04 a Tenor Lay Clerk at St George’s Hanover Square, London, during which time he appeared at the London Handel Festival, in addition to deputising at St Margaret’s Westminster, St Mary le Bow, Westminster Cathedral and other London churches. From 1999-2002 he performed with Cambridge Taverner Choir (Owen Rees) and Psalmody (Peter Holman), recording Haydn and his English Friends with the latter for Hyperion. In 2007 Peter performed songs by William Pratten at St George’s, Bristol. He has also appeared as a soloist with Aylesbury Choral Society, The Trinity Singers, the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford, and the City of Oxford Choir.
Peter's conducting activity currently includes the musical directorships of Harmonia Sacra, Costanzi Consort, Spectra Musica, Cappella Fede, Wells Tallis Voices and Cardiff University Chamber Choir. In 2003 He won First Prize at the Mariele Ventre International competition for choral conductors in Bologna, leading to engagements at the 2005 Ravenna Festival with Coro Euridice (Bologna), and with the Coro di Teatro Comunale, Bologna, in 2010. He was conductor of the City of Oxford Choir (1998-2005), Bristol Bach Choir (1999-2008) and Collegium Singers (2008-2017) and guest chorus master of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus (2002-2003).
Peter studied composition in Adelaide with Grahme Koehne and Peter Brideoake and has composed choral works for several choirs, including Adelaide University Choral Society, the choir of St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide, The Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford, The Choir of the Oxford Oratory, and RSCM Easter courses. In 2011 Peter composed a Requiem for 40 Commando (For the Fallen), premiered by Collegium Singers, and in 2013 a setting of Do not stand beside my grave, in memory of Christopher Manners LRAM. More recent compositions include Latin settings of Dormi Jesu (for Suzie Leech and Harmonia Sacra), Clamabat autem mulier (for Beatrix Smit and the Dominicanenklooster, Huissen) and Senex puerum portabat (for Jeannet Posma and the Evensong Choir at Sint Catharijnekerk, Brielle).
From 1996-98 Peter lectured in musicology at Colchester Institute and in 2004 was awarded a doctorate in musicology from Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge) for his thesis 'Music and Musicians at the Stuart Catholic Courts, 1662-1718'. He is a regular contributor to Early Music (Oxford University Press) and a reviewer for Music & Letters (OUP), Eighteenth-century music (Cambridge University Press) and Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu (Rome). Since 2004 his research has focused on music in British and European Jesuit circles during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He also researches Russian Orthodox choral music and English baroque choral music. In 2008 he was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History (School of Arts & Humanities) at Swansea University, working alongside Professor Maurice Whitehead on an interdisciplinary project 'Recusant music and musicians 1600-1750'. Peter's edition of The Selosse Manuscript (late seventeenth-century keyboard music), discovered by him in 2004, was published by Edition HH in 2008. In 2015 Peter was appointed as Lecturer in the Cardiff University School of Music. www.peterleech.com