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Somerset Life's Sarah Ford talks with Nigel Perrin the King of Choirs

PUBLISHED: 10:18 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 20 February 2013

Somerset Life's Sarah Ford talks with Nigel Perrin the King of Choirs

Somerset Life's Sarah Ford talks with Nigel Perrin the King of Choirs

As he prepares to celebrate a special anniversary, Wells-based choral conductor Nigel Perrin talks to Sarah Ford about his glittering career

As he prepares to celebrate a special anniversary, Wells-based choral conductor Nigel Perrin talks to Sarah Ford about his glittering career

Before the days of ice-dancing celebrities, pop idol wannabies and a national obsession for reality TV, it was the variety show which dominated our weekend viewing. Thanks to hosts such as Val Doonican or the Two Ronnies, talented performers got the chance to shine, and one of the regular acts to appear on our screens was The Kings Singers. Nigel Perrin became well known as the high voice of the group and for 11 years he joined them on world concert tours.

Today he is a prolific choral conductor and a busy teacher working with young developing voices in Somerset. As well as being a consultant and motivator for many groups, Nigel is director of Bath Camerata and the Exeter Festival Chorus, and this month he celebrates 20 years as musical director of the City of Bath Bach Choir.

Nigel is at his home near Wells when I catch up with him. He takes me back to his childhood in Yorkshire and explains that his whole life has revolved around singing. I started having piano and singing lessons when I was seven, he recalls. We lived in a house in Harrogate, with a piano in the front room. The room was freezing and I was always sent in there to practise. I sang in the local church, and after my first choir practice my mother asked me what we had been singing. I said I didnt know but it was something about magnifying a cat!


Choral singing gives you a buzz because you put more of your soul into it, and it comes from deep down within

Nigel became a boy chorister at Ely Cathedral before winning a choral scholarship to Kings College, Cambridge, where it seems he enjoyed playing sport as much as his music. Sir David Willcocks was in charge at that time and, being a very keen sportsman himself, was happy for Nigel to play rugby provided he had a shower before choir practice.

In 1968 Nigel made his debut with The Kings Singers, which took its name from Kings College, Cambridge, where the founder members were choral scholars. Carrying on with their singing after university, the group launched their career in the mid 1960s by offering their old schools a concert for the price of a pint.

Since then there have only ever been 22 Kings Singers, including the current six, and Nigel has some special memories from his time in the line-up. We did a lot of TV shows but the one that got us going was Nana Mouskouris. He recalls: There were many memorable moments such as when we were doing our own TV show and we sang a Flanders and Swan song in the bath. The BBC put six bubble baths on stage and we spent about four hours in them while filming. They kept topping them up with hot water and we came out looking like bleached prunes!

By 1985 it was time for Nigels career to move in a new direction and he came to Bath, where he started teaching. He formed Bath Camerata and was invited to become conductor of the City of Bath Bach Choir in 1990. Nigel now conducts five choirs, although at one stage he was conducting no less than seven.

Choral singing gives you a buzz because you put more of your soul into it, and it comes from deep down within, Nigel explains. It is a communal activity and can be invigorating and thrilling. It is also a very physical activity and after rehearsing for two hours you feel you have done a really good workout, and a pint of beer goes down very well!

Nigel, who is a father of four, also teaches at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School and trains the Chamber Choir. The City of Bath Bach Junior Choir was formed in 2001, where children over the age of eight can discover the pleasure of singing in a group. Nigel says: They will not all go on to become singers, but it sows a seed and that is very important.

The City of Bath Bach Choir

CBBC performs both major and lesser-known pieces of the classical repertoire as well as introducing contemporary works and new commissions to the public. Members have made many tours of the UK and abroad, and in 2008 were invited to take part in a concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York. Roy Cook first joined in 1960 and says that memorable times, with Nigel as conductor, have included the trips to Baths twin towns in Hungary and Germany. I value Nigels energy and enthusiasm and his courage in tackling new and challenging works, such as Pehkonens Russian Requiem.

Roys wife, Sue, is also a member and she says: Nigel creates a very warm and sociable atmosphere in the choir whilst still being very demanding in rehearsals. For choir member Judith Constantine, singing for the mass in Notre Dame in Paris was a memorable moment. She comments: Nigel Perrin is the most inspiring conductor. I joined in 1985; I hope I will still be good enough to pass the next audition!

For tickets for the CBBC concert at Bath

Abbey on 27 March call 01225 463362. Visit www.bathbachchoir.org.uk for further details. For a history of The Kings Singers and their latest news go to www.kingssingers.com.

If you have seen Nigel in concert, or can recommend a similar concert, please feel free to leave comments below.

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