Panel Discussion

New Generation Voices

How we work with today’s children and young people in a cathedral music setting
By convening experts on this subject from a variety of key organisations, the panel discussion promises to be a lively, stimulating and informative exploration of the current issues encountered when engaging young people in cathedral music. We anticipate addressing topics including choir recruitment and retention, pedagogical matters, inclusion and diversity, sustaining engagement beyond choristership, and other related themes.

Ralph Allwood Mbe

The Rodolfus Foundation

Ralph was for 26 years Director of Music at Eton College and is now a freelance choral director, teacher and conductor. He is the Director of the Rodolfus (ex-Eton) Choral Courses, which he founded in 1980. He co-founded the Junior Choral Courses in 2012. Ten thousand 8 to 20 year-olds have since been students on courses. In recent years he has launched courses in Texas, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The Rodolfus choir has produced over 20 CDs since he founded it in 1982. Ralph is co-founder and conductor of Inner Voices, made up of singers from state schools in London. He is Director of the only conservatoire chapel choir in the world, the Old Royal Naval College Trinity Laban Chapel Choir and an Honorary Fellow of University College, Durham. Ralph has conducted choirs for over 40 broadcasts for BBC Radio 3. He has composed much music for Extreme Music, Novello and Pretty Decent Music, heard worldwide on radio, films and television. He teaches at his old grammar school, Tiffin and is a co-founder of the National Youth Music Theatre. In 2015 he co-founded the Pimlico Musical Foundation to enable children from Pimlico Primary Schools to sing in choirs, particularly at St Gabriel’s Church. In 2017, the Archbishop of Canterbury presented him with the Thomas Cranmer Award for Music and Worship. He is Chair of the Choral Evensong Trust.

REBECCA BERKLEY

University Of Reading

Rebecca is an Associate Professor in Music Education at the University of Reading. She is director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes at the Institute of Education. She teaches music education on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at Reading, and is a doctoral supervisor. Her scholarship focuses on teaching musical literacy and musical leadership, choral education and Arts Based Education Research in music. She is an experienced choral director. She is the founder of Universal Voices, a free, children’s community choir at the University. Universal Voices is a unique choir in UK Universities, offering  high quality choral education for children and opportunities for student conductors to learn to conduct by working with the children. Rebecca is also a freelance musicianship tutor, and works as a consultant with the British Kodály Academy, the Association of British Choral Directors, the National Schools Singing Programme and Sing for Pleasure. Previously, she worked for Berkshire Maestros as Area Senior Leader in West Berkshire and a choral animateur.

SARAH MACDONALD

Ely Cathedral
Selwyn College, Cambridge

Sarah is a Canadian-born, UK-resident conductor, organist, pianist, and composer. She is Director of Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and Director of Ely Cathedral’s Girl Choristers. Sarah has been at Selwyn since 1999, and was the first woman to hold such a post in an Oxbridge Chapel. She is also Organist to the University of Cambridge, the first woman to hold that historic office. She studied at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, and her teachers include Marek Jablonski, Leon Fleisher, John Tuttle, and David Sanger. Sarah has made over 35 commercial recordings; her first solo disc, a recording of the Goldberg Variations on the Steinway-D at Ely Cathedral, was released in 2024. Sarah performs internationally every year and is in demand as a conductor, organist, and examiner. She has over 60 published works for choir and/or organ, and has written a popular book about the British choral tradition, a compilation of her column for the American Organist magazine ‘UK Report’, to which she has contributed monthly since 2009. In 2024, Sarah took up the prestigious office of President of the Royal College of Organists. In her spare time, she is a keen amateur photographer.

Headshot of Joe McHardy

Joseph McHardy

Panel Chair

St Paul’s Girls’ School

Joseph was born in Scotland to Congolese and English parents. At the University of Edinburgh, he fell in love with the harpsichords in the university’s Russell Collection. He then studied harpsichord at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and spent a decade as a harpsichordist and conductor, working at opera houses from Berlin to Madrid, and performing with ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic, Le Concert d’Astrée and the Gabrieli Consort and Players. From 2017 to 2023, he was Director of Music of HM Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, leading the choir which counts Tallis, Byrd and Purcell amongst its former members. During his tenure, he prepared the choir for several historic events, including the State Funeral of Elizabeth II, and the Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla. He has worked with youth choirs in and out of the Anglican tradition, including NYCGB, Gabrieli ROAR, and the Choir of St John the Divine, Kennington, has conducted the BBC Singers for Choral Evensong, giving the premiere of Ben Ponniah’s Maida Vale Service in 2021, and appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 as a contributor, reviewer, and presenter, most recently in a documentary about Bayard Rustin’s musical activism. He has recently completed a recording project directing Chineke! Voices in the music of Vicente Lusitano, the first composer known to be racialised as Black to bring their music to print in Europe, and is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Since 2023, he has combined his freelance career with that of Director of Music at St Paul’s Girls’ School, a post he holds in succession to Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Nicola LeFanu.

BENJAMIN SAUNDERS

Diocese Of Leeds
National Schools Singing Programme

Benjamin leads the National Schools Singing Programme. This provides curriculum music and world-class opportunities for after-school boys’ and girls’ choirs with 23,000 children across 321 state schools each week. The majority of Roman Catholic UK dioceses have now enrolled along with a pilot group of Anglican Cathedrals. He is also Director of Music for the Diocese of Leeds, where he founded a broader, more inclusive model for cathedral music in 2003. This has now grown beyond Leeds Cathedral to a Yorkshire-wide programme with a weekly engagement of 6,500 children in choral singing and 1500 children in the study of related keyboard instruments – organ, piano, classical accordion and melodica. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant in the management and development of music programmes, with particular expertise in fundraising, organisational structure, chorister recruitment, financial sustainability and above all addressing access within marginalised or deprived communities. Ben has been involved in HE governance since 2013 as a Director of Leeds Conservatoire, and in 2015 joined the board of Sacred Music at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He began his musical career as organ scholar of Downing College, Cambridge and then held roles as Assistant Director of Music at the cathedrals of St Giles’ Edinburgh, Blackburn and Chester. As an organist, he has given solo organ concerts in France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Russia and the United States and recorded as a soloist for Brilliant Classics/Naxos and Herald AV. Ben has played drums in several Yorkshire rock bands and his latest instrument of study is the classical button accordion.

SIMON TOYNE

Executive Director Of Music, David Ross Education Trust
Trustee, Cathedral Music Trust

Simon is Executive Director of Music of the David Ross Education Trust, where he is responsible for the development of a music programme for over 14,500 children across 34 state primary and secondary schools in the East Midlands. His work at DRET has included the award-winning Singing Schools programme for primary schools, developing a trust-wide primary and secondary music curriculum, fostering a network of partner organisations including Gabrieli Roar, Nevill Holt Opera, Sing Up, the Royal Opera House and the Voices Foundation, creating a team of professional musicians in residence, and devising The DRET Music Way, a guide for music teachers and senior leaders to develop meaningful music provision in schools.   Simon is a member of the Government’s monitoring board for the National Plan for Music Education and has recently been appointed to the Learning and Participation Committee of the Royal Opera House.   Simon is a Director of the Rodolfus Foundation Choral Courses, leading the courses in Cambridge and Liverpool in August 2024, and is Music Director of the Northampton Bach Choir. He received his early musical training as a chorister in Exeter Cathedral Choir, a music scholar at Eton College, and organ scholar of University College, Oxford. For 24 years he was Director of Tiffin Boys’ Choir, where he prepared the choir for over 270 performances of operas at the Royal Opera House and for projects with the major conductors in the world. When Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Kingston, he broadcast on BBC1, Radio 4 and World Service Radio. During this time over 20 choristers gained choral scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge.

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