Key People

ANTHONY PEACOCK | MUSICAL DIRECTOR

Solway Singers’ Musical Director is Anthony Peacock, a well-known figure in local classical music circles.  Born in Edinburgh and brought up in the Scottish Borders, Anthony Peacock comes from a musical family and is married to Kathleen, another well-known local singer who now sings with Solway Singers.

Having studied with the eminent Carlisle-based singer and teacher Ena Mitchell and the International tenor, Ian Partridge, Anthony had a successful career singing professionally all over the UK, and he still undertakes the occasional solo performance.   His first love in terms of his own singing is oratorio and recently he performed the tenor solos in Haydn’s Creation at the 2013 Lanercost Festival. Anthony was also a founder member of and principal tenor for Cumbria Opera for 18 years.

Nowadays the majority of Anthony’s musical activities tend to be focused on choral conducting.  Having been invited to lead Solway Singers in 2004, he has developed the choir into one of the best in the area, attracting singers with good musical backgrounds.  The beautiful tonal quality of the choir is due in part to Anthony’s experience as a singer and singing teacher, and members of the choir benefit from his knowledge in terms of tips on technique throughout rehearsals.

Anthony is a particular devotee of the music of English composers, and is of the view that some are under-valued.  His taste is reflected in many of the concert programmes, with works ranging from Byrd through Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten to Rutter and Chilcott, as well as works by many foreign composers.

AVRIL TISDALL | ACCOMPANIST

Solway Singers’ Accompanist is Avril Tisdall.  Carlisle-born and bred, Avril started learning the piano at the age of 7, partly because her older brother did.  He ended up playing jazz with big bands whereas she moved on to study piano with Derek Wyndham at the Royal Manchester College of Music, having won piano classes at Carlisle & District Music & Drama Festival every year since being young.  Now the Trophy Secretary for the Festival, seeing her name on the cups brings back fond memories – she met many of the eminent musicians who donated the trophies – and also memories of panic-stricken moments such as when she had, temporarily, a complete mental block about the first note of a Chopin study.

Avril graduated with special merit in performance but, being homesick, opted not to continue onto a performance diploma and came back home, travelling weekly instead to Lancaster to train as a teacher at the then St. Martin’s College.  She later met husband Ian, an English teacher, and moved to Liverpool to be with him.  She progressed into the music advisory service to deliver in-service training for teachers and then to train teachers.  Her passion for music is clear, and she speaks about how Wigan used to send primary school teachers on a music course for a week, then provide 6 months’ support – via Avril and her team – in the classroom.  Academic results were high across the board and Avril is convinced that this was due to the broad curriculum to which pupils were introduced, when music and the arts were afforded more time than they are now.

On her first day as Deputy Head of Knowsley’s Performing Arts team, Avril received a phone call from David Essex, then VSO Ambassador.  She was asked to take a small choir to work with him in London; he was so pleased with Avril’s work that a few years later he invited her to go to Uganda as Musical Director for a production of Godspell he was putting on in a teacher training college there.  By then she was new in post at Edge Hill University and was unable to go: it was perhaps a lucky escape as the Musical Director who did go woke Essex with her screaming in the night when she found her bed surrounded by cockroaches.

While at Knowsley, Avril also directed the authority’s Youth Choir.  She had always sung – she sometimes even sings tenor, having a naturally low voice – but this gave her the opportunity to go on a conducting course and hone her directing skills without having a keyboard in front of her.

Working with choirs is something Avril enjoys, so being invited to accompany Solway when she and Ian moved back to Carlisle in 2009 was something she readily accepted.  She loves the relaxed and welcoming feeling of the choir but also the fact that “only the best will do”, and considers that the choir has improved vastly over the past few years.

And ultimately, accompanying the choir has allowed Avril to do far more of her first love: playing the piano.