Music Team

George Vass music director

Described by BBC Radio 3 as ‘the saviour of contemporary classical music’, respected English conductor George Vass studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music, London and was appointed Music Director of St Albans Choral Society in 1994. Vass made his professional conducting debut at St John’s Smith Square in 1979 and, as Artistic Director of the Regent Sinfonia of London, Orchestra Nova and Nova Music Opera, has appeared at many of the UK’s major concert halls and festivals and has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Channel 4 television.

Vass’ discography of over thirty recordings encompasses a wide variety of British music with groups including the Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National and Ulster orchestras, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Choir of Royal Holloway.  He was appointed Artistic Director of the internationally renowned Presteigne Festival in 1992, having recently celebrated his 30th year in the role, and his legendary support for British contemporary composers and their music was rewarded in 2017 with a BASCA Gold Badge Award.

Richard James Harvey accompanist

Richard received his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied organ with Alan Harverson, and harmony and counterpoint with Dr Eric Thiman. While there he was awarded the Margaret and Sydney Lovett Prize for church organ accompaniment.

Richard has been accompanist to St Albans Choral Society for over twenty years, and to Finchley Choral Society for over thirty years. In April 2017 he marked his 40th anniversary as Director of Music at St John’s United Reformed Church, New Barnet.

As a composer he has written anthems, carols and musicals for his church, won prizes for his compositions and has been commissioned by choirs. Vespers (2013), commissioned by St Albans Choral Society, has also received performances by the Johannesburg Bach Choir in South Africa. The Martyrs’ Call, commissioned to celebrate the installation of the martyrs statues in St Albans Abbey, was premiered there in November 2019.

Naomi Jones assistant conductor and chorus master

In addition to George Vass’ strong advocacy of living composers, he is passionate about supporting emerging music professionals. In recent years this has extended to the world of conducting and in September 2022 George recruited Naomi Jones as his assistant and chorus master. The choir has enjoyed working with Naomi over the past two years.

Naomi studied under Omar Ebrahim and John Wakefield at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, graduating in 2005. After a brief career in vocal performance and film work including ‘The Magic Flute’ (Kenneth Branagh) and a short stint in the West End, Naomi took up a PGCE (Secondary) at Reading University and began her teaching career in 2006.

She continued to perform as a soloist and ensemble singer and was a member of St Albans Choral Society, singing as an occasional soloist as well as conducting the St Albans Singers. With the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir under George Vass, she sang at the 75th Birthday Concert for the late John McCabe and was also a member of the 2016 Presteigne Festival Chamber Choir.

Since moving to Bedford in 2016, Naomi has sung with Locrian Choir under Justin Thomas. As a pianist, Naomi accompanies her own school choirs and productions and was MD for ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’ (2008), ‘Oliver!’ (2010), ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ (2012), ‘High School Musical’ (2013), ‘Grease’ (2014), ‘Fame’ (2015), ‘Legally Blonde’ (2019), Little Shop of Horrors (2021) and Six (2022).

Naomi is Head of Music at Mark Rutherford School in Bedford and conductor of the North Bedfordshire Youth Choir (which she established in 2018) and the East Bedfordshire Chamber Choir.

Naomi’s first concert with St Albans Choral Society was in February 2023, when she conducted a programme of hymns and anthems.

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