Musical Director

Richard Laing – Music Director

Richard Laing is a conductor, violinist and writer of remarkable versatility. He is sought after as a conductor of orchestral, opera, and ballet performances, and is one of the UK’s foremost choral directors. In an age of increasing specialisation, Richard is a true polymath, bringing a wide range of knowledge and influences to his music-making. He is Music Director of Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Leicester Bach Choir and Leamington Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, Associate Conductor of Chandos Symphony Orchestra, no. 3 first violin with the English Symphony Orchestra, a core player with the Orchestra of the Swan, a competition adjudicator and external examiner at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Reviews Editor of The Wagner Journal. He regularly undertakes choral preparation, off-stage conducting and pre-concert talks for orchestras such as the Hallé and the BBC Symphony.

The first Conducting Scholar at Birmingham Conservatoire, after nine months of study Richard was awarded his Masters Degree, a Postgraduate Diploma and the Postgraduate Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the musical life of the college. Immediately thereafter he was supported by the Foyle Foundation to work intensively on operatic conducting at Dartington with Diego Masson, and appointed to the post of Associate Conductor with the virtuoso young ensemble Sinfonia Cymru.

In his limited spare time Richard pursues a wide range of academic interests. While still an undergraduate, his work using recently declassified documents to illuminate President John F. Kennedy’s policy in Vietnam won the Kaiser Award for American History. He has presented papers on subjects as diverse as apocalyptic cinema, M.C. Escher and reality TV at the International Conferences on Film and Literature at Florida State University, and on Wagner’s Ring cycle at the International Wagner Symposium at the University of Adelaide. His articles and reviews are regularly published in The Wagner Journal and Wagner News. Richard’s hobbies include collecting first editions of the novels of Daphne du Maurier and Nevil Shute, writing fiction inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James and coastal landscapes, and running the occasional half marathon in aid of the wonderful fundraising group Team Bex. Among his proudest achievements are being appointed Vice President of the University of Illinois Triathlon Club and having articles published in the iconic games magazine White Dwarf; characters he created in the 1980s for role-playing games are still being used all over the world.

During lockdown Richard completed online courses in Relativity from Stanford and in Astronomy from Caltech and was awarded the Open University’s Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science, achieving a distinction in every exam. He is now studying for a degree in Astronomy with the Open University, using a telescope on Mount Teide in Tenerife to obtain optical photometry in two wavebands of open and globular clusters of stars. In 2022 Richard was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.

Richard is married to the singer and psychologist Karen Wise, Research Fellow at Guildhall School of Music and Drama; they live in Huntingdon with their daughter Elsa.

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