Simon Halsey is one of the world’s leading conductors of choral repertoire, regularly conducting prestigious orchestras and choirs worldwide. Halsey holds the position of Chief Conductor of the Berlin Radio Choir, frequently collaborating with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado and Marek Janowski. He has been Chorus Director of the CBSO Chorus for over 30 years, and works closely there with the orchestra’s Music Director Andris Nelsons. Since 2012 he has been Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus, working closely with LSO Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev and leading choral strategy across the LSO’s performance and education programmes. Simon Halsey also holds the positions of Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Youth Choral Programme and Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir.
Recent projects for Halsey with the Berlin Radio Choir include Mozart’s The Magic Flute with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle in the orchestra’s new Easter residence in Baden-Baden. Previous projects have included performances of Bizet’s Carmen at the Salzburg Easter Festival 2012, also with the Berlin Philharmonic. He furthermore prepared the choir for Tallis’ 40-part motet Spem in alium and Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus, in a programme with Mahler’s 8th Symphony which concluded Musikfest Berlin, as well as for the world premiere of Brett Dean’s new piece The Last Days Of Socrates and for Jonathan Harvey’s grand work Weltethos. Upcoming projects in the 2013/14 season include Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in Lucerne and Berlin, Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, and Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. The choir will be back in Baden-Baden in 2014 to perform St Matthew Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic and Rattle.
As Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Youth Choral Programme, Halsey is responsible for leading a long-term education and performance project, bringing together a diverse range of young singers from all over Berlin to act as a large-scale youth chorus and partner to the Berlin Philharmonic for concerts at the Philharmonie and on tour. April 2013 saw him working with 400 children in Benjamin Britten’s Noyes Fludde. His BBC Proms Youth Choir, formed of young singers from all over the UK, performed Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony during the First Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2013.
In just his first year with the London Symphony Chorus, Halsey’s work with the choir was described by the Evening Standard as leading to a “spectacular transformation”. Recent projects with the choir and LSO include Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, and Song of the Night with Valery Gergiev, and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, also with Gergiev. In June 2013, the choir performed in a programme dedicated to the late Sir Colin Davis. Upcoming projects in the 2013/14 season with the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus include Verdi’s Rigoletto and Requiem and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
Recent highlights of Simon Halsey’s work in Birmingham include Symphony Hall’s 21st anniversary concerts where he conducted the CBSO and its Chorus in Elgar’s final, deeply personal masterpiece The Music Makers. In June 2013 the choir tours Germany and France with the CBSO to perform Britten’s War Requiem. His work in Birmingham is complemented by a new role as Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham. Other teaching commitments are at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where he holds the position of International Chair of Choral Conducting.
Simon Halsey held the position of Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir from 1997 to 2008, and the position of Principal Conductor, Choral Programme of the Northern Sinfonia from 2004 to 2012.
Halsey has worked on countless major recording projects, many of which have won major awards, including several Gramophone Awards and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. He won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance in 2008, 2009 and 2011. A new relationship with Deutsche Grammophon started in 2012 and brings Halsey and the German label together in a close collaboration; first results are the CD Spheres, with violinist Daniel Hope, and the recording of religious hymns Morgenlicht, both featuring the Berlin Radio Choir conducted by Halsey himself.
Further recordings that Halsey has made with the Berlin Radio Choir include Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem recorded on Coviello Classics; XL, a disc of choral music including works by Tallis, Bach, Kodály and Harvey recorded on Harmonia Mundi; Christian Jost’s Angst and Simple Gifts, featuring works by Britten, Copland, Barber and Tippett, both on the Coviello label. Other landmark recordings include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and John Shirley-Quirk; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on EMI, in a live recording with the CBSO Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle and Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with CBSO, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Janet Baker and Arleen Augér on EMI. Simon Halsey’s book and DVD Master Class Chorleitung was published by Schott Music in 2011.
In January 2011, Simon Halsey was presented with the prestigious Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse, Germany’s Order of Merit by State Cultural Secretary André Schmitz in Berlin. This is in recognition of outstanding services to choral music in Germany. Simon is married to Lucy Lunt, a producer for BBC Radio 4, and they have two grown-up children.
Simon Halsey is represented by Intermusica.
July 2013 / 878 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Mozart Requiem
“The London Symphony Chorus has always been a good one, but since Simon Halsey, one of Europe’s finest choral trainers, took over last year it has undergone a spectacular transformation. Singing out unencumbered by scores, with crackling consonants and commitment to match, the choir brought a disciplined exhilaration to the party.”
London Evening Standard, January 2013
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Elgar The Music Makers
“[The Music Makers] was a nice choice for this occasion, which Rice, Halsey and his superbly honed chorus certainly made the most of.”
The Guardian, June 2012
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Youth Chorus / Duruflé Requiem
“Hearing this lovely work sung with such tonal openness and clarity of utterance made it sound almost newly minted... Simon Halsey was at the helm – and what a sympathetic, empowering conductor he has become – drawing from the CBSO playing of luminous subtlety and refinement.“
Birmingham Post, March 2012
‘Vom Konzept zum Konzert’ / Schott Music Oct 2011 / ISBN-10: 3795707552
“A handbook for anyone interested in being part of the current choral music boom.
The two DVDs give a vivid impression of Halsey’s charismatic personality, showing one of the world’s most sought-after choral directors working on various pieces in meticulous detail.
Everybody here can learn something from a master.”
“A great deal of the conducting profession is visualized and presented in a pedagogically ideal fashion, with much information that would probably not be obtainable in a standard choral conducting textbook.
In this workshop, Simon Halsey has simply organized the tools in an optimal way.”
“Choral singers will find Simon Halsey’s book highly engaging, while choral conductors will find a treasure trove of valuable tips. In addition to Halsey’s experiences, it also features a wealth of material that he has picked up in his many concert projects with other conductors – not only from his friend Simon Rattle, but also from Marek Janowski, Daniel Barenboim and Kurt Masur.
The ideal gift for every music student and choral director.”
“The book is constantly absorbing because Halsey writes so naturally and fluently: it’s as though he were sitting opposite us and relating essentials from his rich treasure trove of experience.”
NDR Kultur, December 2011
“Halsey’s delightfully readable style, conveying his great enthusiasm for his subject, further contributes to the overwhelmingly positive impression.
With disarming modesty, the great choral director Simon Halsey imparts wisdom from his rich experience and provides comprehensive information on everything having to do with choral conducting.
Here he draws on his full expertise (without ever becoming ideological) and offers so many facets of his knowledge that every choral director will profit from it.
A compendium of choral directing.”
Musik und Kirche
Berlin Philharmonic & Radio Choir/ Bach Matthew Passion (staged by Peter Sellars)
“The most beautiful music event of the season…a jewel in the crown for Simon Halsey’s incredible Berlin Radio Choir.”
Berliner Zeitung, April 2010
“The star of these three and a half hours is Simon Halsey’s Berlin Radio Choir. The chorale ‘Befiehl Du Deine Wege’ has never been heard in a softer, more haunting pianissimo.”
Der Tagesspiegel, April 2010
“The real super hero of the performance is Simon Halsey.”
rbb Kultrurradio, April 2010
“The Berlin Radio Choir is in a class of its own.”
KlassikInfo.de, April 2010
“It is the Berlin Radio Choir that deserves the greatest respect – a choir of superlatives.”
Salzburg24.at, March 2010
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Berlin Radio Choir/ Szymanowski Stabat Mater
“The CBSO´s recording, for which Halsey prepared the chorus, was an award winner back in the early 1990s. This was a performance to fully remind us what beautiful music this is, Halsey perfectly blending his Anglo-German forces in the cause of Polish expressiveness.”
Birmingham Post, April 2009
Berlin Radio Choir & Orchestra/ MacMillan St John’s Passion
“The Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of the energetic, adventurous and skilled Simon Halsey, gave the German premiere of James MacMillan’s gripping, two-hour-long St John’s Passion at the Berlin Konzerthaus, and what a vivid and memorable account it was!“
Berliner Morgenpost, March 2009
Komishe Oper Berlin / Angst
"It was the excellent Rundfunkchor Berlin, tackling the demanding vocal parts with outstanding musicianship under the leadership of Simon Halsey, who gave new life to the piece in this successfully staged performance.”
Neues Deutschland, January 2009
“The musical performance under Simon Halsey will have set the ultimate standard for future stagings, or even recordings, of the piece.”
Der Tagesspiegel, January 2009
Berlin Philharmonic / Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms (EMI Classics)
“Its Latin psalm settings rise from solemnity to ecstasy in music that brings the best from Rattle and choir (Berlin Radio Choir) and orchestra…”
Sunday Telegraph, July 2008
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Parry & Elgar
“Conductor and chorus emerged triumphant… This was a sensational performance, not least because Halsey contrived, as if instinctively, to get all the pacings right.”
The Independent, October 2007
“Simon Halsey conducted the outer parts of this Edwardian programme of English music. Parry’s coronation anthem I Was Glad was a suitably ceremonial opening, while Elgar’s the Music Makers… demanded inclusion too.”
The Guardian, October 2007
"In all three works, a large share of the responsibility for driving home the ecstatic high points falls on the Chorus. Happily, the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus lived up to the enviable reputation it has won under the long-term guidance of Simon Halsey. Augmented by the BBC National Chorus of Wales and members of the City of Birmingham Choir, it rose magnificently to every challenge."
The Telegraph, June 2007
"The weekend's heroes, however, were the enlarged chorus, prepared by Simon Halsey: precision, passion, pure, clear delivery."
The Independent, June 2007
Berlin Philharmonic / Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem
"The Berlin Radio Chorus, trained by Rattle's old colleague in Birmingham, Simon Halsey, sing with restrained passion and beautifully support Rattle's conjecture that this piece is as much a private as a public statement."
Gramophone Choral Award 2007
"Thanks to the marvellous transparency of the playing Rattle encourages from his Berlin players, and the outstanding choral singing, this is a modern version to reckon with. Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus director in Birmingham, appears, on this evidence, to have revitalised choral singing in the German capital. Rattle's Brahms really glows."
The Times, March 2007
Berlin Philharmonic / Ives & Shostakovich
"…the Radio Choir (trained by Simon Halsey) performed under Sakari Oramo with intensity and flexibility."
Neues Deutschland, January 2005
Minnesota Orchestra & Chorale / Handel Messiah
“...acclaimed choral conductor Simon Halsey led those four soloists, the orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale in an interpretation suffused with majesty and richly realized depth. Growing more emotionally engaging by the aria, the evening proved every bit as rewarding as you would expect a world-class collection of Handel practitioners to make it...the Minnesota Chorale responded marvelously to Halsey's charismatic direction.”
Pioneer Press, 9 December 2004
Music Director of CurlewRiver at BBC Proms
“…the piece unfolded with absorbing power, eight excellent instrumentalists casting aural light and shade on the austere plainchart that dominates the vocal writing.”
Evening Standard, 29 July 2004
“Musically it was a secret policeman’s ball, with strong vocal performances all round, but especially from Mark Wilde as the Madwoman and Rodney Clarke as the Ferryman, and the BCMG players captured that semi-improvised feel that Britten intended through his conductorless freedom of movement.”
The Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2004
“…it was also musically convincing; a moving and imaginative revelation of Britten’s most daring work of music theatre.”
The Guardian, 30 July 2004
“…one of the most powerful Proms experiences I’ve enjoyed. … [I was impressed] by BCMG’s beautifully detailed delivery of Britten’s transparent score, by the singing and acting of all concerned.”
The Independent on Sunday, 1 September 2004
“All five of the Birmingham Opera Company’s lead singers were excellent, notably the rising young tenor Mark Wilde in the central, cross-dressing role of the Madwoman. Halsey’s players excelled. Those listening on Radio 3 must have enjoyed a rare treat.”
The Observer, 1 September 2004
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Chorus/ Mahler Symphony No.8
"The City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, the London Symphony Chorus, the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus and the Toronto Children's Chorus, near-impeccable in attack, intonation and blend, were magnificent."
Evening Standard, 7 June 2004
"The City of Birmingham and London Symphony Choruses sang with precision and apparently limitless reserves of physical and emotional stamina. And it was wonderful to see as well as hear the enthusiasm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus and Toronto Children's Chorus, at one point cupping their hands to their mouths to make themselves heard through the tidal roar of one of Mahler's biggest climaxes. To get well over a hundred teenagers and younger children to sing German and medieval Latin with such precision and gusto is no small achievement."
The Independent 9 June 2004
Berlin Radio Choir / 25th Anniversary Concert
“It was not simply concentrated volume, but a fine art of song, tender pianos and orchestral colour which made the concert, directed by Simon Halsey and Daniel Reuss a pinnacle of choral singing”
Der Tagesspiegel, 17 February 2004
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra & Netherlands Radio Choir / Szymanowski Stabat Mater
“It is incomprehensible why this work is not performed more often, as this Stabat Mater has an ethereal beauty. The real star role was reserved for the Netherlands Radio Choir, which related Szymanowski’s Slavonic drama with crystal clear, angelic singing.”
Parool, 12 January 2004
Berlin Radio Choir
“The Radio Choir under the direction of Simon Halsey, showed good form throughout – not just in this extremely complicated premiere: excellent intonation and almost perfect balance with alert attention to all the rhythmical difficulties.”
Leipziger Volkszeitung, 20 March 2003
Edinburgh Royal Choral Union / Handel Messiah
“The Edinburgh Royal Choral Union looked and sounded jubilant…in a performance as professional and slick as any you would wish to hear…under the tart and efficient direction of Simon Halsey. This was a performance which carefully avoided any sensationalism or attention-grabbing dependence on the big numbers. It was operatic in concept. Halsey gathered together the various chunks logically, moulding these into slick and meaningful extended theatrical scenes. The whole of Part II was full of energy and passion, not least in the final, uninterrupted leap into the famous Hallelujah chorus. The concluding Amen was a satisfying climax to one of the most tasteful performances of the work I have ever heard.”
The Scotsman, January 2001
European Voices & Sir Simon Rattle / Salzburg Festival
“The performance possesses high vocal qualities, not least because of the choir European Voices, magnificently prepared by Simon Halsey, which also works hard on its dramatic role.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 1999
“The chorus of European Voices also plays a decisive role. Their flexibility and dramatic intelligence supersede by far the ability and willingness of an old-fashioned opera chorus.”
Der Standard, May 1999
CBSO Chorus & Sir Simon Rattle at BBC Proms / Beethoven Symphony No.9
“Simon Halsey…had moulded receptive voices into a pliable, cohesive force of eloquence.”
The Daily Telegraph, August 1998