Paul Spicer is one of the leading choral directors in the UK. He is a conducting teacher, composer, writer, lecturer and one of the leading specialists in 20th century British music.
Paul Spicer began his musical training as a chorister at New College, Oxford. He studied with Herbert Howells and Richard Popplewell (organ) at the Royal College of Music in London, winning the top organ award (the Walford Davies Prize) in his final year. Paul is best known as a choral conductor, partly through the many CDs he made with the Finzi Singers for Chandos Records and more recently with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir for Somm Records. He conducted Bach Choirs in Chester and Leicester before moving to conduct the Birmingham Bach Choir in 1992. He taught at the Royal College of Music between 1995 and 2008, and also at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire until 2022, conducting its Chamber Choir which made ten highly acclaimed recordings during his tenure. He also taught conducting at Oxford and Durham universities.
Until July 2001 Paul Spicer was Artistic Director of the Lichfield Festival and the Abbotsholme Arts Society. He was Senior Producer for BBC Radio 3 in the Midlands until 1990, and today is in considerable demand as a composer. The first complete recording of Paul Spicer’s large-scale Easter Oratorio was released in 2005 to critical acclaim, the work being recognized by Gramophone magazine as “the best of its kind to have appeared ... since Howells’s Hymnus Paradisi”. The Deciduous Cross, which is based on poems by R S Thomas and was premiered in 2003, was commissioned for Paul’s tenth anniversary as conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir, and was recorded by the Whitehall Choir. His Advent Oratorio, setting a libretto by the New Testament scholar Dr. Tom Wright, formerly Bishop of Durham, who had also written the text for the Easter Oratorio, was first performed in Lichfield Cathedral in December 2009. His choral symphony Unfinished Remembering commemorating the centenary of the First World War was premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in 2014.
He has written a large number of smaller-scale choral works including two cantatas relating to the global pandemic period of 2020-2021: Oceans of Eternal Thought and Sound the Invisible Trumps. He has also written a large number of organ works mostly published by Trumph (Sweden) as well as piano music, songs and chamber music.
Paul’s English Pastoral Partsongs volume for Oxford University Press is widely used. Having written a highly valued practical guide to all Sir James MacMillan’s choral music for his publishers, Boosey & Hawkes, he was commissioned by the Britten-Pears Foundation and Boosey & Hawkes to write the first practical guide to all Benjamin Britten’s choral music for the Britten centenary in 2013.
Paul Spicer’s biography of his composition teacher, Herbert Howells, was published in August 1998 and reprinted three times. He contributed a chapter to the volume of Howells studies published by Boydell & Brewer in 2013, and his latest book, Sir George Dyson – His Life and Music, was published by Boydell & Brewer in May 2014. He is now working on a biography of Sir Arthur Bliss to be published by Crowood Press (London) in 2022.
Paul has written articles for many periodicals and is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He has been a regular conductor of the BBC Singers and is in great demand for his choral workshops, which take him all over the world and he runs various annual choral courses under the umbrella of his foundation, The English Choral Experience. He is a broadcaster, lecturer and popular speaker. Paul Spicer is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Honorary Research Fellow of Birmingham University, an Honorary Fellow of University College, Durham, an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire, Honorary Fellow of the Victoria College of Music and Drama (London), a Trustee of the Finzi Trust, Chairman of the Sir George Dyson Trust, Vice-President of the Herbert Howells Society and lay member of the Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral.