The Artistic Team

Gregory Batsleer Artist Director, Choir in ResidenceGregory Batsleer
Artist Director, Choir in Residence

Gregory was appointed Artistic Director of The Portrait Choir in January 2013.

In 2007 Gregory co-founded the Manchester Consort, and now acts as its artistic advisor and Associate Conductor. From 2008 to 2011 he was closely associated with the Hallé in Manchester, holding the post of Director of the Hallé Youth Choir and working regularly with the Hallé Choir and Hallé Children’s Choirs as well as the Orchestra itself.  From 2010 to 2013 he was Director of Choirs at Manchester University and has also previously held conducting posts with the RNCM Outreach Department, Princeton University and with the Amadeus Orchestra.

Since 2009 he has held the position of Chorus Master at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where his work has drawn widespread critical acclaim.

As guest conductor, Gregory has recently worked with the Hallé Orchestra, Brandenburg Sinfonia, Rodolfus Choir, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the Nonesuch Chamber Orchestra and has appeared at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Three Choirs and Cheltenham festivals.  He has prepared choirs and choruses for orchestras including the Houston Symphony, Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of the Swan and the BBC Philharmonic, and has worked on productions for Opus Opera, Princeton Opera Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and at the BBC Proms.

Outside of the classical world, Gregory works extensively with composer Joe Duddell and has worked as collaborator and vocal consultant with leading cultural artists including international dancer Carlos Acosta as well as on extensive projects with bands including James, Elbow, The Temptations, Damon Albarn, New Order and the Charlatans. He is Artistic Director of live music promoters, Pencil Presents, and member of the creative duo PigsEar with Edinburgh pianist Will Pickvance.

John McMunn
Tenor mentor

American tenor John McMunn attended Harvard University, King’s College, Cambridge and the RCM.

Operatic credits include Lucano L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Podestá La finta giardiniera, Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RCMIOS), Madwoman Curlew River, Stravinsky Renard (Mahogany Opera), Acis and Galatea (Bampton Classical Opera), Magnus The Martyrdom of St Magnus (Hebrides Ensemble), Ugone Flavio (ETO), Leonato Alessandro, Silvio Il Pastor Fido, Tempo Il trionfo del Tempo (London Handel Festival).

Recent engagements include 1st Elder in Susanna with Iford Arts Ltd, Handel’s Messiah for Ulster Orchestra, title role in the world première of Emily Howard’s Zátopek, a new opera for the Cultural Olympiad commissioned by Second Movement in partnership with Liverpool Philharmonic, and Jason and 2nd Corinthian/Captive/Jealousy in Charpentier’s Medée for ENO. Subsequent engagements Bach’s St John Passion in London, Oxford, and Kent, and the St Matthew Passion with the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum in Boston, MA

Andrew Kidd
Bass mentor

Andrew began singing whilst reading music at Cambridge, becoming a choral scholar at Clare College, then Kings College, before joining St John's College as a Lay clerk. Andrew then went on to study opera at the RNCM.

Andrew now spends his time working as a freelance singer in London. He is a regular member of the extra chorus at both The Royal Opera House and English National Opera. He works for many London choirs, including Kings Consort, BBC singers, Polyphony and Tenebrae, and is a permanent member at Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Solo oratorio work includes Monteverdi Vespers and Purcell Anthems for The Kings Consort, Christmas Oratorio and Purcell’s Indian Queen for The Suffolk Villages Festival, Christus from Pärt's Passio for The Aldeburgh Festival, St John and Matthew Passions for The Northern Chamber Orchestra and Messiah for The Manchester Camerata.

Nina Bennet
Soprano Mentor

Nina Bennet studied Philosophy and English at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, before embarking on musical training at the Royal College of Music, London. Whilst there, under the tutelage of Margaret Cable she gained a Graduate Diploma in Singing and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Early Music. She now studies with Annette Thompson.

Recent concert platform work has included Haydn’s Creation and Nelson Mass, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Requiem and the C Minor Mass under Jeremy Backhouse in Guildford Cathedral. She has also performed Haydn’s Little Organ Mass and Faure’s Requiem with the City of London Sinfonia, Bach’s Magnificat under Tim Brown, Bach’s B Minor Mass and Monteverdi’s Vespers with Charivari Agreable in St John’s Smith Square, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Peter Schreier, also in St John’s, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Cadogan Hall.

Nina is becoming increasingly in demand in contemporary music performing Birtwistle’s Nine Settings of Celan with Kokoro, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary group, and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with Sequenza at the Oxford Lieder Festival. Last year she performed the European premiere of Sebastian Currier’s Vocalissimus, also with Kokoro. Equally at home in both Jazz and Gospel, she recently performed with Ken Burton in his piece Take Time to Change, and sang the Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts in Cadogan Hall.

Nina is also a versatile consort singer and recently toured Germany, Italy and Spain with the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr. She appears regularly with the BBC Singers, The London Voices and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir in recordings for Opera Rara, and is a permanent member of the choir of St Bride’s, Fleet Street.

Ciara Hendrick
Alto Mentor

Ciara studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with distinction and a finalist of the Gold Medal. Ciara went on to study at the opera studio of L’Opéra National du Rhin and with the ENO Opera Works programme.

Recent engagements include the title role in Handel’s Susanna with The Early Opera Company, conducted by Christian Curnyn; Dorinda, (Il Pastor fido, Handel) with La Nuova Musica at the Handel Festival; Juno, The Judgement of Paris (Daniel Purcell) with Spiritato for Resonus Classics (recording); 2nd Witch, Dido & Aeneas and Daphne, Actéon (The Early Opera Company); Frasquinella, La Périchole, (Garsington Opera); Hansel for Iford Festival Opera; Phoebe, Yeomen of the Guard for Buxton, and created the role of Margarida in Julian Philips’ The Yellow Sofa in the 2009 Glyndebourne Festival.

As a recitalist, Ciara works frequently with Baroque ensembles including Le Concert d’Astrée, La Nuova Musica, and The Early Opera Company, performing at prestigious festivals and venues throughout Europe including St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Wigmore Hall and Lille Opera House. Other recent engagements include Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Orchestra of St Paul’s at St John’s, Smith Square with whom she toured China at the start of the year.

Future plans include a recital with Sholto Kynoch at the National Gallery, reprising Tweedledum in Will Todd’s Alice in Wonderland, Opera Holland Park and making her Opera North debut as Fortuna/Valetto in The Coronation of Poppea in 2014.

Richard Mackenzie

Richard MacKenzie is rapidly gaining recognition as a soloist and collaborative artist on renaissance and baroque lutes, renaissance, baroque and classical guitars, vihuela and theorbo. His current ensembles include Chordophony (Europe's only professional lute quartet), Oxford Baroque (dir. Jeremy Summerly), Balisiensis and Mascherata, whilst his many collaborations have involved Charivari Agréable (dir. Kah-Ming Ng), Ex Cathedra (dir. Jeffrey Skidmore), The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Yorkshire Baroque Soloists (dir. Peter Seymour), His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, I Fagiolini, Fiori Musicali featuring James Bowman, The City Waites (dir. Lucie Skeaping), The Apollo Baroque Consort, The Amadè Players, The Brook Street Band, Vespri Segreti, Sounds Baroque, Shakepeare's Globe, and Oxford's New Chamber Opera. In addition, April 2012 saw Richard assistant-directing the European Lute Orchestra's appearance at the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza.

In 2011 Richard completed a degree in music at The Queen's College, University of Oxford. Whilst studying at the university he was also a keen solo performer, performing seven solo recitals throughout some of the most diverse concert venues across Oxford. In 2012 the Lute Society published his first edition, a critical edition and reconstruction of the ensemble works from Granata’s Armoniosi Toni… (Bologna, 1684), and that same year Richard’s début solo recording, ‘Il Rosetto’ was issued to acclaim.

Richard has taught lute seminars and masterclasses involving members of the student community both at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance and the University of Chichester.

Elizabeth Weisberg
Soprano Mentor

Originally from California, Elizabeth Weisberg received her B.A. in Music from Stanford University and graduated in 2004 from the Royal Academy of Music where she received the Dip.RAM, the Academy's highest award for performance, and the Clifton Singing Prize for her final recital. At the RAM she won numerous competitions, including the Major Van Someren-Godfrey Prize for English Song, the Hilda Anderson Dean Prize for Historical Performance, and the Helen Eames Prize for Early Music. Elizabeth has also been educated at the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies. She learns with Elizabeth Ritchie and Ashley Stafford.

On the concert platform Elizabeth has appeared in the Winchester, Aldeburgh, and Gloucester Three Choirs Festivals and with conductors including Sir Roger Norrington, Emmanuelle Haïm, Trevor Pinnock, Christopher Robinson, and Nicholas Cleobury. Recent engagements include a tour of Charpentier David et Jonathas and Schütz Musikalisches Exequien with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Mozart Ch'io mi scordi di te? with Pinnock, Handel Gloria in St. John's, Smith Square, Bach B Minor Mass in Manchester Cathedral, Mozart Requiem in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Mozart C Minor Mass in Christ Church Cathedral, Mendelssohn Elijah for Corsley Festival Choir, and the role of Melanto in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria for Snape Proms which subsequently toured to the London Globe Theatre.

Other operatic performances include Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), Sandman and Dewfairy (Hansel and Gretel), First Lady (The Magic Flute), and scenes from L'incoronazione di Poppea, Gluck Orfeo, The Marriage of Figaro, The Rake's Progress, The Turn of the Screw, Don Giovanni and Handel Riccardo Primo.

Elizabeth performs regularly with such ensembles as European Voices, Choir of the Enlightenment, English Voices, The Saraband Consort and Dramma Per Musica. Forthcoming engagements include Mahler 2nd Symphony with the RPO and Poulenc Gloria in the Royal Albert Hall as well as performances of Mozart Requiem in Cyprus

Kate Symonds-Joy
Alto mentor

Kate Symonds-Joy was educated at Cambridge University, where she graduated with a First Class Music degree from Gonville and Caius College. She then studied on the Royal Academy Opera course with Lillian Watson and Audrey Hyland, graduating with a Dip.RAM and the Charles Norman Prize. She was the winner of the 2011 Thelma King Vocal Award and was awarded the Basil Turner Prize for her role Bianca in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for BYO.

Operatic roles include Mrs Herring in Britten’s Albert Herring for Britten Pears in Aldeburgh, Wild Girl in Delius’ A Village Romeo and Juliet for Wexford Festival Opera, Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte for RAO, Koukouli in Chabrier’s L’Etoile for Sir John Eliot Gardiner at the Opera Comique Paris, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen for Regents Opera, Medea in Cavalli’s Giasone for RAO conducted by Jane Glover, Ino in Handel’s Semele for RAO with Sir Charles Mackerras, and Florence Pike in Britten’s Albert Herring for RAO directed by John Copley.

Concert work includes Ravel’s Chansons Madecasses at the Purcell Room, Rutter’s Feel the Spirit at the Barbican, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in Cadogan Hall, a recording of Giles Swayne’s Stabat Mater for NAXOS, Handel arias for the Bydgoszcz Philharmonic in Warsaw, a sequence of danced performances of Handel’s Messiah with Bordeaux Opera, Berlioz’ Nuits d’ete with the Haydn Chamber Orchestra, Berio Folksongs with the Psappha Ensemble, Mozart’s Requiem in Snape Maltings, extracts as Carmen with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir at LSO St Luke’s, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody with the Sinfonia of Cambridge, Baba the Turk (cover) for Garsington Opera, Schumann Lieder with Malcolm Martineau on the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Berio’s Sequenza III in the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and a recital as part of the Royal Academy Song Circle at London's Wigmore Hall.

Future projects include Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in the Thaxted Festival, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the Huddersfield Choral Society under Jane Glover, and the Verdi Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall.

The members of The Portrait Choir are:

Nina Bennett
Laurel Neighbour
Tempe Nell
Suzi Saperia
Roseanna Skikun
Callie Swarbrick
Elizabeth Weisberg
Cally Youdell

Joanna Harries
Lara Rebekah Harvey
Ciara Hendrick
Sarah Maxted
Alex Rogers
Kate Symonds-Joy
Kate Telfer
Claire Williams

Josh Cooter
Chris Fitzgerald-Lombard
Mark McCloskey
John McMunn
Richard Robbins
Will Smith
Joseph Ford Thompson

Jack Halsey
Andrew Kidd
Johnny Kilhams
David Maguire
Oskar McCarthy
Ben McKee
Rich Moore
James Newby