Conductor, Chorus Director and co-founder of the charity Future Stages, Gregory Batsleer has taken over as Festival Director of the London Handel Festival, replacing Samir Savant, who stepped down in July after five years.
As one of Britain’s most innovative and successful choral leaders and artistic directors, Batsleer brings a wealth of knowledge across different media and performance genres, and has acquired an impressive reputation for innovation.
He was Artistic Director of the National Portrait Gallery’s Choir in Residence, curated performances at the Wilderness and Latitude Festivals and co-founded the cross-art collaboration choral ensemble, Festival Voices. He was also Chorus Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Huddersfield Choral Society, but he has worked across genres with acts and artists including Elbow, Damon Albarn and Joy Division.
As Guest Conductor, he has worked with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Hallé Orchestra, Black Dyke, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Orchestra of Opera North, Manchester Camerata, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Academy of Ancient Music, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra; with whom he appears on a number of occasions throughout each season.
As Guest Chorus Master Gregory has worked with orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Orchestra of Opera North, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Houston Symphony Orchestra, and works regularly with leading conductors including Sir Mark Elder, Robin Ticciati, Sir Andrew Davis, Thomas Søndergård, Vassily Petrenko, Sir Roger Norrington, Philippe Herreweghe, Maxim Emelyanychev and Emmanuel Krivine.
In 2017, Batsleer co-founded Future Stages, a charity that opens doors to performing arts careers for disadvantaged young people. The charity provides training workshops and classes and opportunities to perform in major venues with world-class musicians and directed by the likes of Gregory Batsleer himself. In early 2018, the charity’s first full production was a staging of West Side Story, performed by 80 13-18-year-old actors, singers, dancers and musicians from schools across the north-west of the UK. The charity’s in-house orchestra is drawn from conservatoires and music colleges across the country, and the members receive financial support, mentoring and coaching from Batsleer and others.
It is this breadth of experience, that the London Handel Festival is hoping will invigorate its post-pandemic revival, particularly in fulfilling the festival’s stated aim to promote young talent through its world-renowned Handel Singing Competition and its engagement with young ensembles.
Fellow conductor, harpsichordist and the festival’s Musical Director, Laurence Cummings said, ‘I’m greatly looking forward to collaborating and working with Greg over the coming years. Greg brings new energy and vision to sharing Handel’s music in new and imaginative ways, whilst maintaining our joint desire and commitment to put on the best possible performances of his amazingly diverse and wide-ranging works.’
Richard Hopkin, Chair of the London Handel Festival, agreed. ‘On behalf of the Board, I am delighted we have chosen Greg to lead us forward to the next stage in the festival’s growth and development,’ he said. ‘From a very strong field of candidates, Greg impressed us most with his vision, passion and enthusiasm for the role. We are convinced that Greg is the right person to help us deliver Handel’s universal appeal both to our existing and new 21st-century audiences.’
Gregory Batsleer commented on his appointment, ‘I am thrilled to have been appointed the new Festival Director of the London Handel Festival. Handel’s music has an extraordinary ability to inspire and speak to 21st-century London. As we emerge from a cultural hibernation, I’m incredibly excited for what we can achieve. This will be a new and innovative chapter for the Festival in which we aim to be the go-to destination for the performance of Handel’s music, and in turn contribute to London’s reputation for boundary-pushing creativity.’