- Spicer, Paul
- 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 Walford Davies Organ Prize in his final year (the top award). He taught music for ten years from 1974 at Uppingham School and Ellesmere College before becoming a Producer for BBC Radio 3 in 1984, and Senior Producer for the Midlands Region in 1986 based in Birmingham. In 1990 he became Artistic Director of the Lichfield International Arts Festival, a post he relinquished in 2001 in order to concentrate on his freelance musical career.
Paul Spicer is best-known for his work as a choral conductor. He has conducted Bach Choirs in Chester and Leicester (and the Chester Festival Chorus), and in September 1992 took over the conductorship of the Birmingham Bach Choir, one of the leading amateur choirs of the Midlands. He is also the founder and director of the Finzi Singers. This well-known professional London-based chamber choir of 18 singers has achieved an international reputation principally through their many recordings on the Chandos label, and also through their concerts at Festivals, in London and elsewhere, and through the many broadcasts they do for the BBC. The group specialises in British 20th century repertoire of which Paul Spicer is acknowledged to be a leading exponent, and receive constant acclaim from the critics. The Gramophone, for instance, singled them out as "the best small specialised professional chamber choir, directed with outstanding musicianship by Paul Spicer". He is also in great demand as a conductor of choral workshops for the BBC, for the NFMS regional areas, for individual choral societies in different parts of the country, and more specialised advanced courses such as those at Eton or Hereford. In 1995 he was appointed Conductor of the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir and, for the 1996 season, was conductor of the RCM Chorus. In 1998 he conducted the choir when Prince Charles asked them to sing for his 50th birthday celebrations at Buckingham Palace. He is Professor of Choral Conducting at the RCM, having helped to design the new and innovative postgraduate course (M.Mus) for choral conductors. He is also a guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir. In September 2000 he took up his new appointment as Conductor of the Whitehall Choir in London.
Paul Spicer is a composer and has received numerous commissions. These include a song cycle, A Song for Birds for Ian Partridge commissioned as the Elgar Commission by the Worcester Three Choirs Festival, a Piano Sonata for Margaret Fingerhut, and an organ work Prelude in homage to Maurice Durufle for Adrian Partington, also performed at the Three Choirs at Worcester and broadcast. He has written choral and orchestral works (including the successful The Darling of the World, scored for the same forces as Britten's St.Nicolas), instrumental, vocal and chamber music. Recent commissions include a major organ work, Kiwi Fireworks based on the New Zealand national anthem, for Christopher Herrick's Organ Fireworks series for Hyperion Records, recorded at Wellington Town Hall, NZ (now recorded for the second time for Guild Records and also published); an a cappella choral work Dies Natalis for I Fagiolini, premiered at the Purcell Room in February 1995 and broadcast by them later from the Wigmore Hall on Radio 3; a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for the choir of New College, Oxford also broadcast on Radio 3; and a major new work for choir and organ commemorating the 350th anniversary of the death of the poet Lord Rochester for the Birmingham Bach Choir. Recent commissions include a new piano work for Margaret Fingerhut premiered at the 1998 Gloucester Three Choirs Festival and a major two-hour Easter Oratorio for the 2000 Lichfield Festival for chorus, soloists, boys' choir, orchestra and audience. At the 2002 Lichfield Festival Andrew Lumsden will be performing his new Suite for Organ.
As an organist, Paul Spicer has played in many of the major venues in the UK, has given recitals abroad, most recently in Iceland, and has broadcast recitals for BBC Radio 3. Whilst at Ellesmere College he was also responsible for the removal of the historic 'Tyne Dock' Schulze organ from its redundant home in South Shields and the raising of £100,000 to restore and place it in the Great Hall at Ellesmere College where it was installed on a specially built gallery.
Paul Spicer is in considerable demand as a record producer for a number of companies. He works most often for Hyperion and Chandos, but also produces for Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, CRD, ASV, Meridian and Guild. He has regular recording relationships with various artists including the Academy of St.Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Lindsay String Quartet, organist Christopher Herrick (with whom he has toured the world in some 30 recording projects to date for Hyperion), pianists Stephen Coombs, Margaret Fingerhut and Ian Fountain, and oboe and piano duo Nicholas Daniel and Julius Drake. He also produces many individual recordings with such artists as the London Mozart Players, the choir of New College, Oxford, John McCabe and many others.
Besides all these things Paul Spicer also presents programmes for Radio 3. He has done a great deal of research on the music of Herbert Howells, his composition teacher, and has been responsible for the rehabilitation of much of his orchestral music which has now been performed and recorded. With the Finzi Singers he has also recorded a great deal of previously unknown Howells choral music (the most recent, which includes a number of these discoveries, was released in May 1996). During Howells's centenary year in 1992, Paul Spicer gave the centenary lecture at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival, and edited the choral and orchestral work Sine Nomine, which received its second ever performance at the Festival and was published by Novello. In 1994 he was commissioned by Seren Books to write a biography of Howells which was published to considerable critical acclaim in August 1998 and which went into its second edition exactly a year later. His anthology of English Pastoral Partsongs for Oxford University Press has also been warmly received by choral directors and critics alike. He was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 1999 and became an Honorary Research Fellow of Birmingham University in 2000.
Recreationally, Paul is a keen long-distance runner. He is also passionately interested in architecture, and is a member of the Victorian Society.