National Portrait Gallery becomes first gallery to boast a Choir in Residence

The Portrait Choir launches in London, against the backdrop of a picture of Handel

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National Portrait GalleryThe usual quiet murmur of the National Portrait Gallery in London was broken by the sound of voices on Friday 28 June. The Portrait Choir is the first Choir in Residence to be installed at any gallery or museum in the UK and will perform at least five times a year in repertoire from Byrd to Ad├Ęs.

The 22-voice chamber choir is lead by chorus master Gregory Batsleer, who currently works with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and its members are current or recent students of the UK’s music conservatoires.

Batsleer said: ‘This is an exciting new venture for choral music in the UK. The Choir in Residence programme aims to provide our visitors with new ways of appreciating portraiture and music and our hope is that it becomes an integral part of the National Portrait Gallery’s work.’

The choir also has plans to commission new music inspired by portraits in the Collection. One new piece will be commissioned in each year of the three-year scheme and there are also two opera productions in the pipeline.

The Portrait Choir will also give visitors, gallery staff and members of the public the chance to join in with community singing days as part of its residency.

‘It has long been an ambition of the National Portrait Gallery to have a Choir in residence… Thanks to the exciting and inspirational programme that Gregory has planned, the Gallery looks forward to some wonderful singing and the creation of music inspired by the Collection and our exhibition programme.’

Neil Smith