“Choirs are much better without a conductor at a particular point,” English choral director Simon Halsey tells Latitude 34, one of the six choirs of Gondwana’s National Choral School, as he leads an energetic rehearsal of John Rutter’s setting of Sing a Song of Sixpence, clearly revelling in the group dynamic.

I caught up with the conductor, who’s made a career of conducting choirs – from the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus he’s led since 1983 to the London Symphony Chorus he’s conducted since 2012, not to mention a 15-year stint as Artistic Director of the Rundfunkchor Berlin – between the Gondwana rehearsal and a swim at the beach.

Simon Halsey  Simon Halsey. Photo © Matthias Heyde

Halsey has been a regular visitor to Australia over the years, particularly in the late 1990s when he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, whom he will conduct in Brahms’s Requiem in February. “I came for the British summer, for July and August every year, and this was just wonderful for me. My kids knew Sydney better than they knew any city in the UK,” he says.

But it’s clear seeing him work with the choir...