Choral Apprentices

In five years we have supported more than 15 young singers. Our apprentices have won music festivals, choral scholarships and places at prestigious universities, and proudly attest that they owe their success to the experience and confidence they have developed singing with us.

Lewis Hammond


I have been singing in a choir since I was eight years old therefore choral music occupies a very important place in my life. Over the last ten years I have gained a superb grounding in the repertoire of the English choral tradition and for the last two years I have focused on training as a countertenor; as a result of this, I have developed a great love for the Baroque masterpieces of Bach and Handel as well as Renaissance Polyphony.
In 2012 I joined the Choir of St. Mary’s Church in Maldon and subsequently sung for five years under the directorship of Colin Baldy. Whilst at St. Mary’s I had the privilege of singing solos in Handel’s Messiah as well as Bach’s St John, St Matthew Passion and his Magnificat.
At the moment I sing in Chelmsford Cathedral Choir as an alto choral scholar, after having sung as a choral deputy for over a year whilst I was taking my A Levels at CRGS. In the course of my gap year I hope to take my Grade 8 Theory and DipABRSM in Singing. Next year I plan to study music at Oxford and to hold a choral scholarship at one of the major choral foundations.
Singing in Colchester Chamber Choir this year will add an exciting new component to my experience of choral music. I am very pleased to be singing with such a friendly group of people and I look forward to a wonderful year exploring new repertoire!

Daniel Ruiz Viejobueno


My name’s Daniel and I am a first year student of Liberal Arts at the University of Essex. As a very active student at the Luxembourg Conservatory I have been a member of the Pueri Cantores Luxembourg Boys Choir for over 8 years. Before studying voice with Marc Dostert for 4 years, my main instrument was percussion for a period of 6 years. Over the course of my musical studies, I have obtained diplomas in Music Theory, Voice, Choir Direction and Percussion. I’ve sung the lead roles in various musical productions in my high school: Link Larkin in ‘Hairspray’ (2012), Radames in ’Aida’ (2013), Jean-Valjean in ‘Les Misérables’ (2014) and Horton in ’Seussical’ (2015). Besides that, in 2012/13 I was a member of the choir in the Luxembourgish operetta ‘Orpheus an der Ennerwelt’, produced by ‘L’Opéra du Trottoir’ in Luxembourg. I also took part in an opera camp in the summer of 2013 with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival which introduced me to Bizet’s Carmen. In 2014/15 I was a soloist, namely Cascada, in the operetta ‘Die lustige Witwe’, produced by ‘L’Opéra du Trottoir’ in Luxembourg. In October 2015 I have been given The University of Essex Choir Award, consisting of singing lessons with Michael Roderick Earle, which will help me to further develop my musical skills while studying in the UK. My dedication to singing is a quintessential part of my personality and therefore I am very pleased to be part of the Colchester Chamber Choir. I look forward to the fulfilling experiences ahead of me!

Leonie Russell


My name is Leonie Russell and I am in the first year of the sixth form at Colchester Royal Grammar School. For A-level I study History, Geography, Maths, Economics and General Studies and I am enjoying them very much. I moved to Colchester in September last year and wanted to continue with my singing so carried on with singing lessons which led me to join the choir. I have been singing since I was in year 3 and have been involved in school choirs and chamber choirs but never a choir as prestigious as this! In singing I have gained a merit in my Grade 8 and I am also on Grade 8 piano and have grade 6 on the violin. I enjoy being a part of school musicals and have had the privilege of recording in Abbey Road Studios with my old singing group – Elizabeth Concort. Even though I have only been apart of the choir for a short while I can already feel myself maturing as a singer and I enjoy very much being able to sing in a group with such talented people. Everyone is very welcoming and although the rehearsals are hard work, time passes very quickly and you have a lot of fun learning challenging music.

Katie Chippendale (now studying Astrophysics at University of York


I’m Katie, and I’m in Year 12 at Colchester County High School for Girls, studying for AS levels in Chemistry, Physics, Further Maths and Latin. My brother, Tom, was a member of Colchester Chamber Choir for two years, before going to university. I knew how much Tom enjoyed singing with the choir; when I attended concerts I was amazed by the standard of the performances, and really hoped that I would be good enough to join once I was in the Sixth Form. My impression of the choir was confirmed when I sang at an open rehearsal last year. After auditioning, I first performed with the choir in the Choral Steeplechase. This was a very tiring day and, as I had only just joined, it involved a lot of sight singing, but it was a great experience! I am really enjoying being a member of the choir, and I think my singing and performance have improved greatly since I joined.
As well as singing, I play the violin and I currently have lessons in Ballet, Tap and Modern Dance. I am planning to study Physics at university but I hope to carry on singing in choirs.

Tom Chippendale (now studying music at Royal Holloway, University of London)

My name’s Tom, and I’m currently studying for A-Levels at Colchester Royal Grammar School. I first heard about the Chamber Choir from Joe; we study together at CRGS, and he happens to be the conductor of the school’s Big Band, which I play drums for! I have rather varied musical interests: as well as choral singing, I also sing lead vocals for local pop-punk band, Everyday Breakdown – and I play the clarinet! Musical theatre is my other passion; at CRGS, I’ve played Bela Zangler in Crazy for You, and Javert in last year’s production of Les Miserables. Outside school, I’m a member of local musical theatre school Theatre Fun, and recently played the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago. I’ve found singing in Colchester Chamber Choir to be an inspiring experience; the repertoire is great and varied, and the other choir members are very friendly and welcoming. Musically, it is challenging, but I think I’ve grown as a performer, and as a singer – my range is definitely higher than it used to be! In the future, I am planning to study Music at university, with the aim of becoming a professional singer.

Zachary Kleanthous

I decided that I wanted to start singing after coming to see two of my friends sing with Colchester Chamber Choir in 2013. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the choir! Up to this point, I had little experience with choral music but I made it my mission to one day be good enough to sing with a choir as fantastic as CCC. After a year of preparation I was finally able to join the choir and I have loved every second of it. In the short time I have been singing I have achieved a Distinction in my Grade 8 Singing exam and I was very pleased to win both the Tendring Young Musician of the Year 2014 and Colchester Singer of the Year 2014 awards this summer. I also play Piano, Classical Guitar, Electric Guitar and Violin. If my learning curve continues in this way, I would love to be able to study Music further – but I still have much to learn before I can do that!

Singing with Colchester Chamber Choir has helped me to mature as both a Singer and as an overall Musician. The attention to detail in rehearsals means that we aren’t just reading notes on a page – we’re making music! Everyone has been so welcoming and it truly is a delight to be a part of something as great as this!

Harriet Orbell (now studying music at University of York)

I’m Harriet, and I’m currently on a Gap Year working at DP World London Gateway in-between travelling, having finished my A-Levels at Colchester Royal Grammar School in May 2013. During my school life I was involved in a variety of choirs and school productions, from student-produced musicals to Rock ‘n’ Pop choirs, and Colchester Chamber Choir has provided me with the opportunity to continue singing this year before I begin my Music degree at York in September. My Mum has sung with the choir for a number of years, so this was the main way I knew about the choir, although a few of my school friends also sing with the group. I enjoy the challenge the choir presents me with; the sight-reading can at times be a bit of a test, but this has definitely improved over the time I have been in the choir and I feel I am now a more confident sight-reader. Our wide variety of repertoire means I have a better knowledge of choral music now, which will help me in my degree. I really enjoy singing with the choir, and the numerous concerts we do makes it even more worthwhile.

Joe Cowie (now studying music at University of Cambridge)

When I was 11, I sang the part of the Shepherd Boy in a touring production of Tosca. Mike, our musical director, helped me prepare the part; I can still remember the correct Italian pronunciation!

My interest in music developed further when I joined Colchester Royal Grammar School in year 7 where I began playing the double bass and joined all available school ensembles, including the choir.

When I saw an article in the Essex County Standard detailing that Mike was setting up a new choir in Colchester I made note that I must attend a future concert. I finally saw Colchester Chamber Choir perform at St Leonard’s Lexden in March 2012; impressed by the quality of the ensemble, I asked whether I could audition. I sang in all the choir’s major projects between autumn 2012 and summer 2014, benefitting greatly from the experience.

Through the choir I gained a great deal of musical knowledge and awareness which certainly contributed to me gaining a place to study music at Clare College Cambridge. At university I am in much demand as a double bassist; unfortunately I do not have so much time for singing although I occasionally deputise in Clare College Choir. I was also a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for three years, being principal double bass throughout 2015. I am now the president of the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra which performs regularly throughout the year in Cambridge and London, working with high profile conductors and soloists.

During the university vacations I have very much enjoyed returning to sing with the Colchester Chamber Choir and hope to continue doing so in the future!

Dominic Blanchard (now studying Music at University of London)

My name’s Dominic, I sing 2nd Bass and I am currently the youngest member of Colchester Chamber Choir. I am in my first year of sixth form at Colchester Royal Grammar school studying for my AS levels. I first started singing in choirs from as young as 9 and have been a member of my current school choir for 6 years. As well as singing I also play classical guitar and ‘cello with Essex Youth Orchestra. I am also a member of our school’s Chamber Choir, Barbershop, Orchestra and Guitar Ensemble. I intend to study music at University with the goal of playing ‘cello professionally.

I had heard about Colchester Chamber Choir from my friends Joe and Tom who encouraged me to audition. I was incredibly excited about joining the choir and at the first rehearsal I was completely blown away by the quality of the choir. Singing in the choir has been a very good social experience and has extremely improved my voice and my sight-reading skills. It has also given me a much more diverse knowledge of choral music and I find it incredibly fulfilling.