The British composer and conductor takes the reins from Roland Peelman after 25 years.

British composer Antony Pitts has been named as the next Artistic Director of the Song Company. He shall take the reins of Australia’s leading vocal group from Roland Peelman, who steps down as Artistic Director at the end of 2015 after 25 years in the position to focus on his role as Artistic Director of the Canberra International Music Festival.

Pitts’ illustrious and versatile career as a composer, conductor, producer and educator has earned him a world-class reputation in his native Britain. Beginning his close association with choral music as a chorister in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, since then Pitts has become one of the UK’s most respected champions of music for the voice, as the founder of the vocal ensemble Tonus Peregrinus, and through his many choral compositions. Pitts was selected for the Song Company’s top job after a global search, and he and his family will be relocating to Australia at the end of the year. Limelight Magazine spoke to Pitts about his new appointment and his vision for the Song Company.

The Song Company

What first attracted you to the Song Company?

I was drawn to The Song Company’s vast and extraordinarily wide-ranging repertoire, but even more by the fact that the ensemble works together full-time across the season, and therefore is able to achieve things artistically which can only be done with that kind of continuity and regularity. The sound of the ensemble is a product of the people in it – their personalities as well as their voices – so being able to work that closely and intensely on producing beautiful and thought-provoking music is very exciting. 

You’ll be relocating from the UK for this exciting new position. Will you be resident in Australia full time or split it between Northern and Southern Hemispheres?

Yes, we’ll be resident in Australia – my family and I are looking forward to making our new home in Sydney. I’ll also go North from time to time, e.g. to attend premieres of my music or to work occasionally on specific projects with Tonus Peregrinus, but the bulk of my time each year will be spent leading The Song Company.

You’re taking on this role from Roland Peelman after his 25-year directorship of the ensemble. What are your thoughts on taking over from Peelman after his long tenure?

Well, it’s a challenge, that’s for sure!  I’m beginning to get a fuller picture of quite how much The Song Company has achieved with him over the quarter-century. I think he has made people think again about what the human voice can do. I’m hoping to build on Roland’s legacy and continue his creative approach to programming while finding new ways of uncovering repertoire and engaging with a wide audience.

You’re a composer and the Song Company has a long history of championing new Australian music. Will you be adding more European/British composers to their roster of commisionees?

It’s possible, of course, but my main focus for commissioning opportunities will be on finding and nurturing the best new music in Australia to go with the many strands of The Song Company’s repertoire. I’m hoping my British and European experiences will also add to the mix, in terms both of interpretation and programming, and drawing on the networks of choral and other music of which I’m part. There are some pieces of mine too which I think will suit the Company very well.

What’s your vision for the ensemble in coming years? Any ambitions you care to share?

There’s lots I could say, but it’s too early to reveal much before our season launch in September, except to affirm that I believe in the nourishing power of music to open up and distill hearts and minds by its beauty and vitality and to make a difference in this troubled world. Of course there’ll be something old, new, borrowed, blue – as the traditional saying goes – and plenty for both The Song Company’s loyal fans and for new audiences among this generation of music-lovers and the next. My ambition is to develop the Company’s role as ambassadors of music within Australia and also to bring the sound and music of the ensemble across the water – hopefully at some point to audiences in the UK.

Contribute to Limelight and support independent arts journalism.