Simon Halsey occupies a unique position in classical music. He is the trusted advisor on choral singing to the world’s greatest conductors, orchestras and choruses, and also an inspirational teacher and ambassador for choral singing to amateurs of every age, ability and background. Making singing a central part of the world-class institutions with which he is associated, he has been instrumental in changing the level of symphonic singing across Europe.
He holds positions across the UK and Europe as Choral Director of London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Chorus Director of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Artistic Director of Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser of Palau de la Música, Barcelona, Artistic Director of Berliner Philharmoniker Youth Choral Programme, Creative Director for Choral Music and Projects of WDR Rundfunkchor, Director of BBC Proms Youth Choir; Artistic Advisor of Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir, Conductor Laureate of Rundfunkchor Berlin and Professor and Director of Choral Activities at University of Birmingham.
He is also a highly respected teacher and academic, nurturing the next generation of choral conductors on his post-graduate course in Birmingham and through masterclasses at Princeton, Yale and elsewhere. He holds four honorary doctorates from universities in the UK, and in 2011 Schott Music published his book and DVD on choral conducting, Chorleitung: Vom Konzept zum Konzert.
Halsey has worked on nearly 80 recording projects, many of which have won major awards, including the Gramophone Award, Diapason d’Or, Echo Klassik, and three Grammy Awards with the Rundfunkchor Berlin. He was made Commander of the British Empire in 2015, was awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music in 2014, and received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany.
Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and of King’s College, Cambridge. and studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1987, he founded with Graham Vick the City of Birmingham Touring Opera. He was Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir from 1997 to 2008 and Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia’s Choral Programme from 2004 to 2012. From 2001-2015 he led the Rundfunkchor Berlin (of which he is now Conductor Laureate); under his leadership the chorus gained a reputation internationally as one of the finest professional choral ensembles. Halsey also initiated innovative projects in unconventional venues and interdisciplinary formats.
María Guinand, choral and orchestral conductor, university professor, pedagogue and leader of choral projects, is currently Artistic Director of the Schola Cantorum Foundation of Venezuela and the Choir of the Polar Foundation. In her long career, she has been the Associate Professor of the Simón Bolívar University (1976-2018) (Venezuela) in the General Studies and the Master in Music; Coordinator of Choral Symphonic projects of El Sistema (1980-2012) and Director of the Simón Bolívar Conservatory of Music (1993-1996); Artistic Director (2003-2017) of the ‘Música para Crecer’ program sponsored by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF). She has also been President (e), Vice President and Advisor for Latin America of the International Federation for Choral Music (1996-2008) and member of the International Music Council (UNESCO) (2002-2005).
She won the awards: 'Kulturpreis' (1998), 'Robert Edler Preis für Chormusik' (2000), the 2009 Helmuth Rilling Award, the Life Achievement Award of the International Federation for Choral Music (FIMC 2019) and the Honorary Doctorate of the Metropolitan University, Caracas, Venezuela (2020). With the Cantoría Alberto Grau she won 6 Prizes in the Choral Competitions of Neuchatel and Arezzo (1989) and with the Orfeón Universitario Simón Bolívar Simón Bolívar three gold medals in the Choral Olympics, Linz 2000.
She premiered the Passion according to San Marcos of Oswaldo Golijov, whose recording was nominated for two GRAMMY Awards in 2002 and in 2010. With the new recording for Deutsche Grammophon, she obtained the ECHO Prize 2011 in Germany. In 2006, she prepared the Schola Cantorum for the premiere of John Adams' Opera ‘ A Flowering Tree ’at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna. In recent years, she has directed several concerts at the Liederhalle (Stuttgart), Barbican (London), Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Sao Paulo Room (Brazil), Teresa Carreño Theater, Simón Bolívar Room and Aula Magna (Caracas), Disney Hall (Los Angeles), Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall (New York), among others; and the premiere in Berlin, Stuttgart and Caracas of the work ‘AQUA’, by Gonzalo and Alberto Grau (2012-2013).
She is frequently invited as Director and Teacher to conduct choral programs and master classes in USA, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia and also to be part of international juries. She collaborates with various choral institutions in the world such as FIMC (International Federation for Choral Music); ACDA (American Choral Directors Association); Chorus America; NCCO (National Collegiate Choral Organization) (USA); Europa Cantat; America Cantat; Japan Choral Federation; Chinese Choral Federation; FCEC (Federació Catalana D’Éntitats Corals); A Couer Joie, among others. She has been invited to lead prestigious choral groups such as the Belgian Radio Choir, World Youth Choir, Gaechinger Kantorei, Youth Choir of the European MusiFest Festivalensemble, Junges Vokalensembles Hannover, Pro-choir Canada, Houston Chamber Choir, Japan National Youth Choir , National Choir of Spain, Choir of the RTVE (Spain), the Symphonic Choir of the OSESP (Brazil), among many others. She is editor of Latin American Choral Music for the publishers Earthsongs (USA) and Carus-Verlag (Germany). During this year 2020 she is Artist in Residence (Choral Singing) at the Florida International University (FIU,USA). She will direct the Chamber Choir (section of equal voices) of the Palau de la Música Catalana (Barcelona, Spain); the Coral Cantiga at the Grec Festival; Pro-Coro, Canada at the premiere of Alberto Grau's 'O Magnum Mysterium'; Houston Chamber Choir (USA), Choir of the University of Mendoza (Argentina). She will give master classes in Choral Direction at the Chorus America Conference in Florida (USA), at the Palau de la Música together with Simon Halsey, and at the Universities of Natal (Brazil) and Cuyo (Argentina).She received her musical education and conducting training under the tutelage of Alberto Grau and Helmuth Rilling, and Gregorian Chant and Sacred Music from Luigi Agustoni and Johannes B. Goeschel