After an enthusiastic youth singing regularly in the choir at Crosthwaite Church, Keswick and at Keswick Grammar School (and with a little bit of training with Elsie Arnott who ran several choirs in the west of the county), Janet completely retired from singing, apart from in church at St Mary’s, Wreay. She kept her piano-playing going for a while, until house space and a family got in the way. Much, much later, with encouragement from friends at Wreay, she eventually managed to convince Solway Singers that they would like to have her in the soprano line. Thrown in at the deep end with her first concert being Dyson’s Canterbury Tales, Janet kept coming back for more.
A lifetime in admin led to being involved in the organisation of the Choir’s tour to the Netherlands in 2017 and thus to the current role of Chairman.
Solway Singers’ Musical Director is Anthony Peacock, a well-known figure in Cumbria and Southern Scottish classical music circles. Born in Edinburgh and brought up in the Scottish Borders, Anthony comes from a musical family and is married to Kathleen, also a well-known Cumbrian singer, who now sings with the choir.
Having studied with the eminent Carlisle-based singer and teacher Ena Mitchell and the International tenor, Ian Partridge, Anthony had a successful career for thirty-five years as a professional tenor soloist, singing in many parts of the UK. His first love in terms of his own singing is English song, but he is best known for his performances in oratorio. His last performance, before retiring as a soloist, was in Haydn’s Creation at the 2013 Lanercost Festival.
Anthony was a founder member of and principal tenor with Cumbria Opera for 18 years. He was MD for Gretna and District Choral Society for fifteen years and was also a founder of the Lanercost festival, conducting the seventy-strong Festival Chorus in many major works.
Nowadays the majority of Anthony’s musical activity is focussed on choral conducting. Having been invited to lead Solway Singers in 2004, he developed the choir into one of the best in the area, attracting singers with good musical backgrounds and the beautiful tonal quality of the choir is due in part to Anthony’s experience as a singer and singing teacher. Members of the choir benefit from his knowledge of technique and interpretation throughout rehearsals.
Anthony is a particular devotee of the music of English composers, and is of the view that many are under-valued in their own country. His taste is reflected in the concert programmes, with works ranging from Byrd and Purcell, to Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, and to contemporary composers such as Rutter and Chilcott. But, in addition, the choir also performs works by many foreign composers.
Conducting a choir can be challenging, but that is part of the appeal for Anthony: he knows the sound he wants to achieve, and finds it thrilling to hear that successfully evolve. And of course, when the final performance results in a great sound, fulfilled singers, and a satisfied audience, then all the hard work has been more than worth it.
Avril Tisdall started teaching the piano in her early teens and was awarded an LRAM for piano-teaching whilst still at school. During her school days she often accompanied both her school and church choirs. Avril went on to study piano and violin at the Royal Manchester College of Music and graduated with special merit in performance. She completed a PGCE at St .Martin’s, Lancaster and pursued a career in teaching, spending fifteen years in the classroom before taking up a post as an advisory music teacher for Wigan MBC and subsequently as deputy head of performing arts for Knowsley MBC. Her particular passion was for developing the music-teaching skills of the generalist teacher in the primary classroom and she became well known in the Merseyside area as a music educator.
Avril spent the last seventeen years of her career as a senior lecturer in music education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire, also spending a brief spell as an Ofsted inspector. At Edge Hill, she regularly accompanied staff and student recitals. More recently, she has been accompanist for the Merseyside Young Singer of the Year competition and, since returning to her native Carlisle, has become the regular accompanist for Solway Singers. She is also Chair of Carlisle and District Festival of Music and Drama.