Ricahrd Tanner, Director of Music at Rugby School
As Director of Music at Rugby School since 2012, Richard enjoys leading a large team of students and professionals who cover a broad variety of musical specialisms. The choir has sung in Carnegie Hall and regularly appears on BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong. He is Director of ‘The Rugby Choristers at Bilton Grange’ who sing six Choral Evensongs each week.
Richard has produced over fifty recordings and has worked extensively for the BBC as music director, accompanist and music advisor. He has made recordings as a conductor with The Northern Chamber Orchestra and in 2022 he made his debut conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly performs organ recitals across the UK and plays for services at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields; his organ recordings are available on Spotify. Work abroad has included organ recitals in India, directing choral courses in Sweden and USA and conducting the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
He was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, student at the Royal Academy of Music and organ scholar at Exeter College, Oxford, where he read music. He has held posts at St Albans Cathedral, AII Saints’ Northampton, The Royal Naval College Greenwich and was Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral for 13 years.
As a chorister Richard sang at the wedding of (the then) Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and recorded with Paul McCartney and Elton John. As well as getting a mention in the biography of a former England Football Captain, Richard conducted the choir at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham.
Director of Music at Bilton Grange, Mark Penrose
Mark has been Director of Music at Bilton Grange Preparatory School since 2015 and has extensive experience teaching music to a wide range of ages, from reception to sixth form, including singing and leading choirs to the highest standards. He trained as a musician and teacher in Brisbane, Australia, where he was born, and has experience performing in choirs, operas and as a soloist. He holds a Bachelor of Music (Voice) and a Bachelor of Music Studies (Hons I) with a focus on vocal pedagogy from the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, a Bachelor of Education (Secondary)(Graduate Entry) with a Kodály focus from the University of Queensland, and a Master of Education (Leadership and Management) from the University of Buckingham. He is passionate about excellence in music and choral education and is currently a member of the Music Teachers’ Association Committee.
Mark supports the Rugby Choristers at Bilton Grange by ensuring that the choristers develop their instrumental playing and have opportunities to play in ensembles. He works closely with colleagues to ensure that the choristers grow as all round musicians by learning about the theory of music, composition and participating in masterclasses both as instrumentalists and vocalists. Mark also works with the staff of Bilton Grange to ensure that the choristers can still be part of every aspect of school life whilst maintaining their busy schedule of rehearsals and services.
Head of Keyboard, Ian Wicks
Ian has a lifelong association with choral singing and choristers having worked at Salisbury Cathedral School as Director of Music, Chorister Liaison and Acting Assistant Organist at Salisbury Cathedral and earlier at Exeter Cathedral School as Acting Director of Music. Most recently he has been Headmaster of The Chorister School, Durham Cathedral and therefore brings a wealth of experience of three choir schools which allow Choristers to embrace all of school life whist maintaining their commitment to singing in the choir and their wider musical education. Ian is also a singer and sang as a Lay Clerk at St Alban’s Abbey with Dr Barry Rose and Andrew Lucas and before this was a Choral Scholar at Exeter Cathedral and Organ Scholar at Exeter University Chapel. He has been a chorister parent of both a boy and a girl chorister and understands the commitment choristers and their families make to experience the joys and professional training that they will receive. Ian’s philosophy is that music is for everyone and he has been at the forefront of music outreach into primary schools throughout his career, developing programmes that led to the government SingUp! campaign and the programmes that now operate across the country.
Ian is the organist to The Rugby Choristers at Bilton Grange and plays for their services in Rugby School Chapel; he also oversees the Organ Scholars from Rugby School who play for services at Bilton Grange Chapel. Ian takes rehearsals and supports the programme by working closely with Bilton Grange staff in collaboration with his wife, Elizabeth Wicks; the Chorister Liaison.
Head of Vocal Studies, Matthew Sandy
Matthew studied Music at King’s College, Cambridge, where he held a choral scholarship and sang with King’s College choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury. He went on to specialise in singing at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
He has extensive experience as a choral conductor and choir trainer, and is currently vocal coach to the boy and girl choristers at Coventry Cathedral.
As a performer, Matthew has an extensive concert portfolio, performing as a soloist at venues including Barbican Concert Hall, Birmingham Town Hall, Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square and Amsterdam Concertgebouw, as well as for BBC television and radio broadcasts. He has sung with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Concert and the Academy of Ancient Music. His specialism is for English song, collaborating with leading academics and practitioners. Recent projects have included recitals, lectures and staged works for the Britten-Pears Foundation at the Red House in Aldeburgh. In opera and staged works, Matthew has worked with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Matthew takes rehearsals and conducts the choirs in services in Rugby School Chapel in collaboration with Richard Tanner.
Vocal Coach, Philipps Hyde
Philippa is a professional soprano and singing teacher who trained with Yvonne Minton at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She has spent most of her professional life specialising in Baroque music, working with historically informed performance ensembles such as The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music, with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Roger Norrington and Richard Egarr.
Her first experience of working with choristers was with the trebles of Exeter College Chapel Choir in Oxford. Since then she has been vocal coach to the boy and girl choristers at All Saints’ Church Northampton and Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire. She very much enjoys working with choristers, in conjunction with their choir trainer: keeping an eye on their vocal development; encouraging healthy voice production and helping them to prepare for solos. Her focus is on an uncluttered and natural, well supported sound, with an even tone and ease of delivery throughout the vocal range. Philippa loves to witness the joy of discovery – of both this new skill and musical world – that young singers experience during their time as a chorister, and is always impressed by the professionalism and dedication that they display, which sets them up so well for life beyond the choir.
Philippa has also experienced the life of the choir parent for her son, who spent five years in the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. She knows first hand how much the children gain from this experience, and what a delight it is to watch them flourish.
organist and Chorister Training, Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca read music at Lincoln College, Oxford, where she was also Organ Scholar. She continued her studies at the Royal Academy of Music gaining an MA in Piano Accompaniment and LRAM teaching diploma, she was also a Junior Fellow to the Vocal Faculty.
Before her time at Rugby, Rebecca was Director of Music and Head of the Choristers at Hall Grove Prep School, responsible for all the training and directing of both girl and boy choristers. Since 2012 she has worked for the British Benevolent Fund, hosted by the British Embassy, in leading and creating vocal outreach programmes in Spain. Similarly, she has developed a series of programmes for young French singers in Provence.
As a conductor, soloist and accompanist Rebecca performs and coaches across the UK, Europe and Middle East. She has broadcast for BBC Radio 4 Daily Service and performed on Radio 3 and BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year. Rebecca is a staff accompanist at the Royal Academy of Music, Accompanist and Assistant to the Artistic Director of Leeds Festival Chorus, and Assistant Conductor of Twickenham Choral Society.
Rebecca plays the organ and conducts some services and works with the choristers and probationers during their morning rehearsals.
Chorister Liaison, Elizabeth Wicks
As Chorister Liaison, Elizabeth Wicks provides pastoral support and chaperoning for the choristers and is a point of contact for parents about chorister routines. She also provides a voice within school for the choristers helping to shape their schedule, allowing them to embrace all that school life brings and ensuring there is good liaison and communication both within school and with parents. Mrs Wicks brings a wealth of experience of working in two Choir Schools in similar roles and has been a Chorister parent as well. She is a keen amateur singer and sings with the Arnold Singers at Rugby School.