Born in in 1942 in Swaffham, Norfolk, of Finnish extraction, Elis began composing at the age of twelve and at eighteen won a Composition Scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London. Here he studied with Peter Racine Fricker, and at various times with Benjamin Britten, Lennox Berkeley, Richard Rodney Bennet and Anthony Payne.

BFCS gave the second performance in 1982 of his Buccinate Tuba (Written for the Three Choirs Festival in 1980) and such was the response of audience and performers that he was commissioned by BFCS for a work to be premiered in 1986. The result was Russian Requiem, subsequently performed by many choral societies throughout the UK and abroad. Elis Pehkonen later composed Laudate for the 150th Anniversary Concert of BFCS in 2001. Christopher Morley, music critic of the Birmingham Post, was enthusiastic about the work and the recording which followed (Birmingham Post, 17 November 2001)



John Joubert (1927 – 2019) has said that he has a “profound respect for the musical cultures of amateurs and with this very important section of the musical public I have enjoyed some of my most rewarding musical experiences.” He was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where he had his first musical schooling. This imbued him with a love of English Cathedral music, and over the years other influences included Elgar, Walton and Britten, as well as Bartók, Janácek, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. At the age of nineteen he won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the age of 24 he married Mary, a primary school teacher in Hull, and wrote the ever popular Torches (1951) for her pupils; in the same year, Barbirolli conducted the Hallé Orchestra in his Overture Opus 3 at the Cheltenham Festival (1953).

He lectured at Hull and Birmingham Universities for many years, then concentrated on composition from his home in Moseley, Birmingham. BFCS commissioned him to compose a work to celebrate the Centenary of the City of Birmingham in 1989, and Jeremy Patterson conducted the première of For the Beauty of the Earth in Birmingham Cathedral.


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David Lawrence is one of the UK’s most versatile choral conductors. In 2013 he was appointed Community Choir Director to the London Symphony Orchestra. He has also worked with the London Philharmonic Choir, the Hallé Choir, and the CBSO Chorus, and the national youth choirs of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. David has adjudicated at international choral festivals, and for the BBC Choir of the Year and Young Musician of the Year competitions. He conducts for BBC Television’s ‘Songs of Praise’ and directed ‘The People’s Chorus’ for BBC Four. He currently holds the Guinness World Record for conducting the UK’s largest choir – 6,846 singers!

David’s work has taken him to Singapore, Colombia, Canada, the United States, India, throughout Europe, and since 2005 he has worked annually in Australia. BFCS has benefitted hugely from his contributions to our residential choral workshops,  as well as from his conducting of Circle Song, a piece for adult and youth choirs by Bob Chilcott. David has a particular passion for working with young people, and until recently was the regular conductor of the CBSO’s City of Birmingham Young Voices.

The friendly Birmingham choir singing the world's best choral music.