Wirral Community Choir is a part of the community outreach programme of Birkenhead Sixth Form College, based in Claughton on the Wirral, Merseyside.
Stephen Mannings – Director of Music
Stephen took up the baton as Musical Director of the Wirral Community Choir in January 2013. Prior to this, he was the Deputy Musical Director and Accompanist from 2010-12, and Deputy Accompanist from 2009-2010.
Stephen is the Assistant Choral Director at Liverpool Cathedral. His role there includes being the Choral Animateur and is responsible for the Liverpool Cathedral Schools Singing Programme. In addition to rehearsing and conducting the Cathedral Choirs, Stephen works with over 500 school children each week as part of the Cathedral’s aim to make choral singing accessible to young people all over the city.
Stephen also has a fruitful career as a freelance musician. He is Musical Director of the Aughton Male Voice Choir (based in Lancashire), Director of the Metropolitan Cathedral Youth Choir and Crypt Organist, and Parish Organist at St Charles Church, Liverpool. Stephen works regularly as an accompanist, and has played in many prestigious venues including: St. George’s Hall, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, The New Brighton Floral Pavilion, and the Villa Marina, Isle of Man. He also played keyboards on the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Before commencing work in the musical field, Stephen attended Bangor University (Wales) where he read business, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Business & Marketing, before winning a scholarship to study for an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) in General Management. Stephen then studied at the University of Liverpool where he received a Master’s degree in Music in 2010.
Alan Derrick – Choir Manager and Compère
Alan has been associated with the Wirral Community Choir since 2007. As Choir Manager, he works closely with the Musical Director and the various section representatives, especially in the planning of performances and the organising of concert platforms.
A talented jazz and blues pianist in his own right, Alan frequently accompanies the well-known local tenor, Nick Hardy, and one of the choir’s former sopranos, Joyce Kench, focusing on the great Broadway songbooks as well as operatic arias. He also coordinates much of the front-of-house work with the Liverpool Italian Opera Company.
Victoria Wells – Accompanist
Victoria Wells teaches music and performing arts at the Birkenhead Sixth Form College in Claughton Village and has worked there since 1992. She has directed many talented students in a variety of productions and concerts including Fame, Sweet Charity and Our House.
She was born and bred on the Wirral and has played piano since a young age. Some of her earliest public performances included playing duets with the internationally renowned concert pianist, Stephen Hough. She has also been privileged to accompany a wide and varied range of instrumentalists and for several years she worked with cellist Sandy Bartai, giving recitals throughout the North West.
Victoria’s real musical love is vocal music, and her performing career has included accompanying the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, Merseyside Opera, Operaworks (for whom she provided the full accompaniment for staged performances of La Boheme and Don Giovanni) and Birkenhead Choral Society. She is currently the accompanist of Hoylake Choral Society and West Kirby Light Opera Society. She made her debut with the Wirral Community Choir in July 2013.
Graham Connolly – Founder and Life President
In 2006 Graham Connolly formed the choir from an adult evening class called Develop Your Singing. Starting with about 15 members the choir expanded over the years, and when Graham relinquished the baton in December 2012, there were over 100 voices.
Graham’s lifetime of musical experiences includes numerous choirs and music societies and he also specialised in opera and musical theatre. He studied and sang some of the great baritone roles of Mozart, Verdi and Puccini. Graham was also concert manager to the Liverpool Welsh Choral for 24 years.
He is well known as a vocal tutor and for establishing the now famous Rotary Club of Liverpool Merseyside Young Singer of the Year competition in conjunction with BBC Radio Merseyside. From 2013 this event has become the Merseyside Singer of the Year, and Graham will continue to be the driving force behind the organization.
Kathryn Podmore – President
Kathryn is Principal of Birkenhead Sixth Form College where Wirral Community Choir rehearses on a Thursday evening during term time. Kathryn began her teaching career at a comprehensive school in Stafford. She then worked within Staffordshire Local Authority to establish a Post 16 Centre in Stafford. Following this Kathryn moved into the Sixth Form College sector and became Vice Principal at Eccles College and then into her current role as Principal at Birkenhead Sixth Form College.
Kathryn was Chair of Merseyside Colleges Association for the Principals group for three years. At a national level she chairs a national Post 16 committee for the Association of College and School Leaders and in the North West region represents colleges on the Sixth Form Colleges’ Forum Council. Kathryn has organised regionally meetings for the Women’s Leadership Network in Merseyside and Manchester and is a member of the Wirral Children’s Trust Board and sits on the 14-19 Strategic Partnership group.
During breaks from college life, Kathryn enjoys travelling, visiting the theatre and spending time with family and friends in her home county of Devon.
Fay and Michael Corfe – Vice Presidents
Born and bred on the Wirral, Fay and Michael are retired Local Government Officers. They are both avid supporters of music in all its forms and especially of productions by local societies, which they feel is vital to the life of the community. They are particularly thrilled that we on Merseyside are so fortunate in having such a rich host of talented musicians, singers, conductors and composers – and as such are honoured to be vice-presidents of the Wirral Community Choir.
Kathryn Rudge – Vice President
Liverpool born mezzo-soprano Kathryn has been a friend of the choir since it was formed in 2006 and became Vice President in 2010. She featured as The Times “Rising Star of Classical Music 2012” and as the Telegraph “New Face in Opera 2013”. She completed her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2011 with a BMus (1st class Hons), PGDip& International Artist Diploma and immediately became an English National Opera (ENO) Young artist. She made her critically acclaimed professional opera debut with ENO as Cherubino (The Marriage of Figaro) in 2011. Since then she has performed roles with Opera North as Sesto (Giulio Cesare), Annio (La Clemenza di Tito) and Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). She also performed the role of Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro) for Glyndebourne Touring Opera
Kathryn’s concert work has included recitals at Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, The Sage Gateshead, Leighton House and Brighton, City of London, Chester and Cheltenham Festivals (Broadcast by BBC Radio 3). She has performed with the RLPO on several occasions, and appeared with Sir Willard White in a Classical FM Concert at Bridgewater Hall and with American tenor Noah Stewart on a UK tour. She has also performed in the title role of Carmen with Conductor Charles Hazlewood at Glastonbury Abbey, the ‘Armed Man’ with Conductor Karl Jenkins and Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at Leeds Town Hall.
In 2014 Kathryn sang the names of the 96 Hillsborough victims at the world premiere of Michael Nyman’s Symphony No 11: Hillsborough Memorial with the RLPO at Liverpool Cathedral. Recent engagements include a performance at the Royal Albert Hall and a Valentine’s Day Gala Concert with the RLPO. Future engagements include performances at Wells Cathedral, Leeds Town Hall and a celebration of the RLPO’s 175th Anniversary in a Beethoven Symphony No. 9. On the opera stage she will perform in the role of Dorabella (Cosi Fan Tutte) for Garsington Opera and Rosina (Barber of Seville) for English National Opera.
Kathryn’s debut CD “Love’s Old Sweet Song” was released on 2nd February 2015 on the Champs Hill Record label. For more information visit http://www.kathrynrudge.com
Mavis Owens – Ticket Secretary and Treasurer
Before retirement Mavis worked as a personal secretary to the Chairman of Wirral Hospital NHS Trust. She has been the Ticket Secretary and Treasurer of the Wirral Community Choir since 2007. She also handles the registration for the choir’s college rehearsals.
Mavis has a large role in marketing the choir’s concerts and in selling tickets. She deals with all financial transactions into and out of the choir’s bank account and maintains appropriate documentation for auditing by the college’s finance department.
Mavis also works for the Liverpool Welsh Choral as their Ticket Manager and has done so for a number of years. She has a small group of “helpers”, trusted volunteers who are a great asset on concert nights, helping to sell tickets, programmes and raffle tickets.
As well as performing these vital and enjoyable roles with two choirs, Mavis leads an active social life, loves playing bowls and is a mean bridge player!