Welcome to Macclesfield Singers (formerly known as KEMS Choir). We are a friendly bunch of people who enjoy singing together.
We extend a warm welcome for singers of any age (male or female) to join us. Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra plays for most of our choral concerts and sometimes we're joined by some of the Macclesfield Concert Band members - we all enjoy making great music together.
New singers welcome
Singing in a choir is very rewarding and is great fun too. Macclesfield Singers are always happy for new singers to join us, without audition. If you fancy joining us please email Marianne Day or telephone her on 075408 48097.
Macclesfield Singers Music Director Mark McCombs looks back on the 2022-23 season
Summary of major works studied / performed:
•C.V. Stanford, Songs of the Fleet
•R. Vaughan-Williams, Fantasia on Christmas Carols
•W.A. Mozart, Vespers Solemnis
•W.A. Mozart, Coronation Mass
•B Chilcott, A Little Jazz Mass
•G. Shearing, Songs and Sonnets
So there we have it, my first season with Macclesfield singers.I must confess that I was daunted by the prospect of taking over from Mr Chesworth, but I'd like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone for being so well-humored and welcoming, and ensuring that I’ve had a blast!
We started the season with Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet, five settings of maritime poems by Sir Henry Newboult. The songs proved to be relatively light work for the singers, with one remarking that the songs ‘do what they say on the tin’. Still, I must confess that I enjoyed the opportunity to set high standards of finesse with the choir given that the notes themselves were straight-forward. Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra were very welcoming, and paired with the singers and baritone Sam Snowdon made this a stonkingly good concert.
Whilst Stanford can be rather Victorian in sentimentality, our Christmas Extravaganza was far from it. The choir and orchestra performed a very varied collection of works, and the choir in particular seemed to enjoy the rhythmic puzzle that was Cecilia MacDowall’s Now May We Singen. With the orchestra we performed Vaughan William’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with a stellar baritone solo from our own David Smith, after which we raised the roof with carol settings by Bob Chilcott and Mack Wilberg. Wilberg’s arrangement in particular was fitting for this extravaganza, demonstrating all the bombastic excitement you could ask for!
On April 1st KEMS gave its second all-Mozart programme in recent years, performing his Coronation Mass, Vespers, and overtures from both Figaro and The Magic Flute. Macclesfield Singers and Symphony orchestra gave a brilliant and stylish performance of these exhilarating works, and showed an amazing stamina to perform with such indefatigable enthusiasm for the whole show. We were joined by soloists Robyn Pullen, Louise Wood, Dominic Morgan, and Patrick Osbourne, all current students at the RNCM - and all future stars I'm sure.
A Little Jazz was a brilliant end to Macclesfield Singers' 2022-23 Season - my first with the group. The repertoire was a little different than our usual choices, but the lovely audience seemed to enjoy our trip to the lighter side of 20th century choral music. The choir sang expressively - particularly in George Shearing's Songs and Sonnets, where those telling facial expressions demonstrated all of the the innuendo within Shakespeare's lyrics. We were very grateful to be joined by Adrian Sherwood on the bass and Eric Culbert on the drum kit, who's playing transformed St Michael's into a 1930's jazz club.
The concert was however tinged with a little sadness, as we said goodbye to our amazing accompanist Rachel Fright, who moves off to pastures new. Rachel is genuinely one of a kind -an astoundingly good pianist who's been instrumental in making sure I felt welcome in my first year with Macclesfield Singers. We wish her well for the future.
Speaking of the future, I’m really looking forward to tackling Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with KEMS this coming autumn. It is intense, and wild, and exciting, and so will pose some challenges for Macclesfield Singers - not to mention the fact that it’s in Hebrew! I also look forward to welcoming James Heathcote as Macclesfield Singers’ new accompanist. In the audition James wowed us by his good humor, stylish accompaniment, and his ability to intuitively find exactly what the singers need in rehearsal. I’m sure that he’ll be a real asset to KEMS.
Musical Director (from September 2022): Mark McCombs
Mark McCombs is a conductor, composer and vocal tutor based in Manchester, UK. He was a chorister of the critically acclaimed S.F.X Boys’ Choir, with whom he performed across Europe and the US. Mark holds a PhD in Music Composition from The University of Sheffield.
He is founder and artistic director of The Seven Hills Singers, and director of The Oriel Singers, Liverpool.
Mark is an academic music teacher at Lymm High School, Cheshire, and is also responsible for the school’s singing programme. Mark was head of choral music at Cheadle Hulme School, one of the UK’s leading independent schools, from 2014-2021. He was responsible for the senior school’s six choirs and provided the school’s pupils with individual tuition. Until July 2021 Mark was also a vocal tutor to the choristers at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and at the Sheena Simon School of The Manchester College.
Mark’s compositions have been performed internationally by The Sonnen Quartet, The Ebor Singers, UOS Chamber Choir, Escafeld Chorale, The Choirs of Cheadle Hulme School, and soprano Debra Finch. In 2012 Mark was shortlisted for the NCEM Composer Award.
From 2011-2017 Mark directed the choirs at the University of Sheffield. The University’s elite Chamber Choir gained international standing during Mark’s tenure and were invited to perform at the Messe pour la libération de Paris in Notre Dame Cathedral, in 2016. The service was broadcast on Radio France and KTO TV. Mark taught harmony, counterpoint and musicianship, and coordinated all choral conducting tuition at the University, where he also held the Sir Henry Coward Organ Scholarship from 2013-2016.
Mark was Director of Music and Organist at St Mark’s Church, Sheffield, from 2013-2018 and has held organ scholarships with Sheffield Cathedral and St Matthew’s, Sheffield. He holds a diploma from the Royal College of Organists and studied with Dr Simon Lindley.
Mark acknowledges the Charles Alan Bryars Organ Legacy and is a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the Royal College of Organists, and the Association of British Choral Directors.
Accompanist (from September 2023): James Heathcote
James Heathcote is a versatile musician based in Manchester. He works with a number of amateur choirs in the region as both an accompanist and a Musical Director. As well as the Macclesfield Singers, he is the regular accompanist for the Smithy Belles, a community choir in Hazel Grove. He has accompanied Stafford Choral Society, Streetwise Opera, and the Philharmonic Choir, Manchester, and was Music Director of Warrington Musical Society in the year until July 2023. The focus of his piano playing is choral accompaniment, but he has recorded some solo piano music for 'Flip the Stem', an initiative aimed at addressing the imbalance of gender and ethnicity represented in concert programmes.
James is also a high-level cellist, and he has played with many of the North's finest orchestras, including the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of Opera North. A student of historical performance, he's interested in finding new means of expression using old recordings and sources.
Macclesfield Singers Rehearsals