© Benjamin Harte

Nicholas Cleobury

Why is choral music important?

William Byrd said as long ago as 1588 – ‘ Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing ‘. For men nowadays read everyone!

The sheer excitement of making music with one’s own body together with other people, is reason enough. But report after report tells us that singing  is good for our physical and emotional health, our reasoning and numeric skills, our interaction with others and our social skills and interaction. Being in a diverse group, with people of all ages, creeds, jobs and circumstances, joining to create a unified performance, aiming for the highest standards, releasing tensions and above all enjoying it, is one of the great gifts we have.


What are your thoughts on the recent trends and changes taking place in the classical music scene abroad? 

Classical music everywhere is more exciting and diverse than ever. In my lifetime, it has become much more available to all, through recordings and now the Internet. You can access music from the most popular to the most obscure. New composition is thriving across all genres, very diverse, often bewilderingly so, but nevertheless it is exciting! Despite this and many fantastic composers, nowhere better, if I may say, than in the UK, there is a tendency to champion composers of soft centred, easy performing and listening, rather vapid music. It pleases but surely evaporates. My wish would be for the stronger, sometimes harder to understand music, would reach a wider audience. Great art can take time to appreciate.  Modern Art seems to do this better than Modern Music.

Again over the last few decades the rise of Period Practice performances has grown and makes us all ask when we perform any older music, how would it have been performed. Big question!


Do you see Indians in orchestras around the world? What advice would you give to aspiring musicians in India?

Yes I do, not very many, but I think I would need the statistics to answer properly. The best advice to any musician that is given to someone in New York when asking the way to Carnegie Hall – ‘practice’. The aspiring musician needs good teachers, inspiring mentors and then they will come forward. As for advice, I would say, join orchestras and choirs, listen to music, and soak yourself in the wonderful Classics and music of our time. If you love music, are good enough and determined (and practice) , you’ll do it, and it will open up new worlds both creatively and geographically. It is an international language.


Would you visit India and conduct workshops and master classes? 

With the greatest of pleasure, as long as I could learn more about Indian music as well!



About Nicholas Cleobury

Nicholas Cleobury - photo - please credit Benjamin Harte (5)
© Benjamin Harte

Nicholas Cleobury is Artistic Director of Mid-Wales Opera, Principal Conductor of John Armitage Memorial (JAM), Founder Director of Sounds New, Principal Conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir and Founder Laureate of the Britten Sinfonia.

Nicholas Cleobury has conducted all the major UK orchestras and widely in Europe, Hong Kong, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Africa, USA and beyond. He works regularly for the BBC and Classicfm, has appeared at most British Music Festivals, often at the Proms and made many recordings.

He has conducted numerous opera companies from ENO, Glyndebourne and Opera North to Canadian Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Royal Opera Stockholm and extensively for Zurich Opera. He has been Principal Opera Conductor at the Royal Academy of Music and Music Director of Broomhill Opera.

Nicholas Cleobury has made an enormous contribution to the performance and fostering of contemporary music, having worked with many leading ensembles and composers, most notably Sir Michael Tippett, given countless premieres and promoted many young composers.

He is also a specialist choral conductor, having been Assistant Director at the BBC Singers. He has worked with choirs all over the world, from the Swedish and Danish Radio Choirs, to the Berkshire Choral Festival (UK and USA) and Die Konzertisten in Hong Kong and numerous major choirs in the UK, including the Royal and Huddersfield Choral Societies.

He has a particular gift and flair for working with young people and students, as conductor, lecturer and teacher, at most of the UK music colleges, and with British Youth Opera, Jette Parker (ROH), the National Opera Studio, Oxford University Music Faculty, University of Cambridge Faculty of Music and the Southbank Sinfonia.

He is an Honorary RAM and Fellow of Christ Church University Canterbury, MA (Oxon), FRCO and a Trustee of Britten in Oxford, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Sounds New and Youth Music.