Thursday 13 October 2016

The world’s first museum permanent collection Choral Audio Guide will be launched at the National Portrait Gallery, London in a gallery-wide wave of sound this weekend, it was announced today, Thursday 13 October 2016.

Launching on the evening of Friday 14 October with free live pop-up performances by The Portrait Choir, there will also be a specially created sound installation of choral music, inspired by the Gallery’s Collection, by electronic musician named Scanner.

The Choral Audio Guide, which was made possible with support from Gallery donors, was recorded by The Portrait Choir which is at the heart of the Gallery’s Choir in Residence programme.

Narrated by actor Simon Russell Beale, the Audio Guide illuminates portraits in the Gallery’s permanent Collection by offering visitors the opportunity to hear the choral sounds of each time-period spanned by the portraits in its 500-year Collection. A specially commissioned narration provides the context for each choral piece.

Starting with Tallis, the guide moves into the Tudor galleries with Wilbye and the Stuarts with Bennet, moving into Purcell and Handel in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century galleries; Mendelssohn and Sullivan in the Nineteenth; and Elgar, Britten and Tippett in the Twentieth; the Audio Guide will provide a unique soundtrack to five centuries of portraits.

The Choral Audio Guide is brought to the Contemporary Galleries with music including Tavener’s The Lamb from 1968 before ending right up to date with a specially commissioned choral piece Te Lucis ante terminum by composer James Burton. Burton’s piece sets to music extracts from the National Portrait Gallery’s Special Constabulary Report Book, from 1914-20, when the basement of the Gallery was used as a place of safe haven during the First World War London bombings.

Artistic Director Gregory Batsleer will discuss the Choral Audio Guide at an In Conversation event at the Gallery with BBC Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton Hill.

The Audio Guide is being produced by Philip Hobbs of Linn Records and will be available to download online, via iTunes and to stream via Spotify, for £3.

In addition, on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 October The Portrait Choir will be performing at 14.00 Everything you Can Imagine is Real – a multi-disciplinary event combining the music of Stravinsky with spoken word, lighting and sound display to explore the themes associated with Picasso Portraits.

Formed in 2013 The Portrait Choir is the National Portrait Gallery’s Choir in Residence. The Portrait Choir has commissioned and performed at least one new work each year. Performing with up to 22 singers The Portrait Choir is made up of some of the UK’s finest young professional singers.

Ms Pim Baxter, Deputy Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Since The Portrait Choir was formed in 2013  we have heard a range of wonderful music being performed at the Gallery under Gregory’s thoughtful and creative direction, including specially commissioned pieces composed around works in the Collection or special exhibitions. In the new Audio Guide we have captured a tangible example of the Portrait Choir which can not only be enjoyed by visitors to the Gallery but also much further afield.’  


National Portrait Gallery, Friday 14 October 2016, 18:30-20:00
A specially created sound installation of choral music inspired by the Gallery’s Collection as well as pop-up performances by the Portrait Choir. Admission Free  


National Portrait Gallery, Friday 14 October 2016, 19:30
BBC Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton-Hill is joined by Portrait Choir Artistic Director Gregory Batsleer and a Gallery curator, to discuss the Choral Audio Guide and how Portraiture and Music can go hand in hand.
Admission Free

For further Press information and image requests please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email: [email protected]

To download Press images visit:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055 Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website/Tickets: 


Choral Audio Guide – Track List and Gallery Room:  

Room                     Music     

Main Hall               Tallis – Miserere Nosti 1575

2                              Wilbye – The Lady Oriana 1601

5                              Bennet – Mother I will have a husband 1620

9                              Purcell – If Love’s a Sweet Passion from ‘The Indian Queen’ 1692

12                           Handel – For Unto Us from ‘Messiah’ 1741

17                           Fanny Hensel – Abendlich 1820

20                           Mendelssohn – Cast thy burden upon the Lordfrom ‘Elijah’1846

21                           Sullivan – Chorus from ‘Iolanthe’  1885

25                           Elgar – My Love Dwelt in a Northern land 1890

28                           Muriel Herbert –  Flower Song 1905

30                           Parry – My Soul there is a country 1918

31                           Tippett – Nobody knows from ‘A Child of our Time’  1941

31                           Britten The Evening Primrose 1950

31                           Vaughan Williams – The Cloud Capped Towers 1955

32                           Tavener – The Lamb 1968

32/35                     James Burton – Te lucis ante terminumA Portrait Choir Commission2016

The Portrait Choir

Formed in June 2013 as part of a special project, The Portrait Choir is a key part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Choir in Residence programme. The Portrait Choir is made up of some of the UK’s finest young professional singers, many of whom have recently graduated from a number of the country’s most prestigious music institutions and sing as soloists and in other leading chamber choirs. The Portrait Choir has taken residence in the Gallery around four times a year and performs music which explores some of the themes associated with the Gallery’s Collection, exhibitions and displays.

The Portrait Choir has collaborated with various leading artists and ensembles, including New Century Baroque, Florilegium and the Royal College of Music Baroque Orchestra. The Choir have also given a number of performances outside of the Gallery. Last summer they appeared for a second time at the Latitude Festival and performed at the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in a production of All the Angels: Handel and the first Messiah. The Portrait Choir also has a strong commitment to new music. Recent commissions include works by Josephine Stephenson, Ben Parry, James Burton, Freya Waley-Cohen and Will Dutta, the Gallery’s Creative Programmer, Friday Night Music.

Gregory Batsleer – Artistic Director, The Portrait Choir

Gregory’s current posts include Artistic Director of the National Portrait Gallery Choir in Residence programme, Chorus Director with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus Director with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Gregory frequently works with international conductors including Sir Mark Elder, Robin Ticciati, Emmanuel Krivine, Sir Roger Norrington, Philippe Herreweghe and Richard Egarr. Previous posts include Director of Choirs at Manchester University, Director of the Hallé Youth Choir and Assistant Conductor with the Amadeus Orchestra. As a guest conductor Gregory’s recent and forthcoming work includes performances with the Rodolfus Choir, Hallé Orchestra, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, RCM Parry Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, Ensemble Serse and the Edinburgh International Festival. Outside the classical world, Gregory is Artistic Director of live music promoters Pencil Presents which will be launching a new set of music events across the UK in 2016. He has worked as musical consultant on various plays and was recently nominated for an ‘Off West End’ award. He has also collaborated with leading artists including Damon Albarn, Elbow, Clean Bandit and the band James. Gregory studied and held scholarships at Princeton University and the Royal College of Music, and continues to study conducting with Neil Ferris. He was recently awarded the first ever Arts Foundation Fellowship in Choral Conducting.