Christopher is a young conductor based in South London. He is Principal Conductor of the Multi-Story Orchestra, which he co-founded in 2011 with composer Kate Whitley. Multi-Story’s concerts in a Peckham Car Park were recognised with a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2016. In the same year, Christopher made a critically acclaimed BBC Proms debut with the Orchestra, leading to reinvitations for 2017, when they performed John Adams’ Harmonielehre, and in 2019.
Away from Multi-Story, Christopher works mainly in opera and as an Assistant Conductor. Whilst at the University of Cambridge he had the opportunity to conduct Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Albert Herring with the Cambridge University Opera Society. Since graduating he worked extensively on the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival and Tour as Assistant Conductor, and was awarded the Lefever Study Award by the company for his work on The Turn of the Screw in 2014. He also worked as an Assistant Conductor for the BBC Proms, Aurora Orchestra, The Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, Oper Köln, Garsington, Gürzenich-Orchester and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Christopher began his musical life as a cellist and pianist, playing in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, turning to conducting orchestras and operas whilst a Choral Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he was received an MA in Music and Musicology and a MusB in Piano Accompaniment, his thesis focusing on Pitch-Class Analysis of the music of James MacMillan.
This interest in contemporary music is carried into his conducting. For Multi-Story he has conducted the works of John Adams, Gerard Grisey, Louis Andriessen, Terry Riley. Christopher has conducted world premieres by Kate Whitley, Dani Howard, Matt Rogers, William Marsey, Emma-Ruth Richards, and has recorded for the NMC label. In 2018 he conducted the BBC Inspire composers competition winners with the Aurora Orchestra for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Christopher is committed to community and amateur music making. This work is at the core of the work of the Multi-Story Orchestra. Away from Multi-Story, he is principal conductor of Blackheath Halls Orchestra and the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra. Christopher studied conducting with Peter Stark, Jorma Panula and Stephen Layton.
We chatted to Chris to find out more….. And it turns out he’s started conducting ERSO at a young age!
What age were you when you decided that you would like to become a conductor and what inspired this decision?
I began thinking about conducting quite young – my parents were both cellists, and it always seemed to me that the person in the middle had the opportunity to get so close to all of this exciting repertoire. I actually once had a quick go at conducting the Ernest Read Symphony orchestra when I was about 9, at one of the children’s concerts at the Festival Hall! But I caught the bug properly when at University. I wanted to put on Ravel’s Piano Concerto with a friend, and brought together lots of our group to put it on. I love the producer element of conducting, bring talented people together.
What instruments do you play and what makes conducting more attractive to you than being a player?
I play the piano and the cello, and I sang a lot growing up, both in operas and choirs. I’m not sure that conducting is more attractive, but I love the breadth of it – trying to zoom out and have the largest perspective possible.
What piece(s) do you dream of conducting one day in the future?
What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you when conducting?
Playing a big amplified piece in Peckham Car park that has lots of electric and bass guitars, that is supposed to end with a thrilling fortissimo battle between the two sides of the ensemble (Andriessen’s De Staat). Not having a proper power supply in the car park, we were relying on a petrol generator which ran dry with 90 seconds to go, leaving us looking a bit ridiculous, working very hard but with very little sound coming out…
What are you most proud of in your conducting career?
I think I’m most proud of music education projects in Peckham. We’ve worked with some of the schools for 5 or 6 years, showing them an orchestra in their school and bringing them along to sing pieces with the Orchestra. It’s so exciting when you see children getting the buzz for great music, and also when they see an orchestra being part of the community as a normal thing.