Andrew Charity (Conductor)
Andrew studied conducting at the Royal College of Music and the Canford Summer School (George Hurst) and won two major prizes. Since leaving the London Opera Centre in 1972, he has developed a busy orchestral and freelance career, conducting a wide range of choral, orchestral and operatic repertoire; he is also a composer and arranger, pianist and organist.
Andrew has been an assistant Musical Director for both the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre companies, and toured as Associate Director with the London Opera Group and Divertimento Opera. He has coached boys for roles with English National Opera and Netherlands Opera. He conducted in ‘Night of a Hundred Stars’ in the West End, ‘Candide’ (Arts Educational Schools, Riverside Studios), ‘Last Night of the Proms’ (Hinge and Bracket), concerts with Alberto Remedios, Victor Spinetti and the Bringham String Quartet, and his own version of ‘The Beggars’ Opera’ (Merton Opera and RADA). He has conducted a number of amateur orchestras and choirs as a guest in London and the provinces (as well as directing the West Barnes Singers for 25 years), giving several premieres, including the UK premiere of Martinu’s concerto for violin and piano.
Andrew's freelance choirs, ensembles and orchestras have been heard at the Edinburgh Fringe, St martin-in-the-Fields and on the Gartwick Express, and have promoted shopping festivals, hotels and restaurants. He has planned and directed a wide variety of events for the Merton and New Addington Festivals and created the Merton Festival Chorus and Merton Virtuosi: he is Music Co-ordinator for the London Borough of Merton. Recital appearances have included the Almeida Festival, Fairfield Halls, Holywell Music Room Oxford, the Sainsbury Centre University of East Anglia and the Schwibich Festival Munich.
Andrew has directed and composed or arranged music for over fifty plays at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Polka Children’s Theatre with acclaimed revivals at the Edinburgh Fringe and among others at festivals in Poland and Rochester. Commissions have included various tributes for Dame Eva Turner, Cecil Madden, Athene Seyler (100th birthday, Memorial Service), John Gielgud (in the presence of the Princess of Wales). ‘I Dream of Peace’ was commissioned by UNICEF for their 50th birthday in 1996 and was premiered at Spitalfields Market Opera with great success.
Elspeth Wilkes (Assistant Conductor and Accompanist)
Elspeth is in much demand as a pianist, accompanist and repetiteur.
As a pianist, she has performed at many venues including St John’s Smith Square, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, St James’ Piccadilly, Southwark Cathedral and St Giles’ Cathedral Edinburgh. She has also worked with The Royal Ballet, BBC Wales and Southbank Sinfonia and been an official accompanist at festivals in Oxford, Bath, Lincolnshire and Essex.
As a repetiteur, Elspeth has worked with many companies including Opera de Bauge, English Touring Opera, Sussex Opera, Garden Opera, Second Movement Opera and Royal Academy Opera. Most recently she has been working as assistant musical director and pianist on Opera Up Close’s sell-out production of La Bohème which will shortly transfer to the Soho Theatre in London’s West End.
She also works as an accompanist with London Oriana Choir, The Cannons Scholars and Thurrock Choral Society. In 2009, Elspeth founded the St Georges Concert Series for whom she regularly performs. While studying at the Royal Academy of Music, Elspeth won the Scott Huxley Accompaniment prize and the Elena Gerhardt Lieder prize and has participated in masterclasses with Robert Tear, Barbara Bonney, Felicity Lott, Ingrid Surgenor and Malcolm Martineau amongst others.