The Harborough Singers was first formed in 1978 in order to represent England in an International choral competition in Debrecen, Hungary. Since that time the choir has been promoting choral music, developing singing skills and introducing audiences to new music as well as entertaining and raising money for a wide range of charities. In recent years the Choir has travelled widely to give concerts to raise money for charities such as the NSPCC, Homestart, The Royal British Legion and the RNLI. The Harborough Singers is itself a charity, and exists through subscriptions, donations and fundraising concerts and recordings.

The Choir has been highly successful in achieving its vision to perform music to a consistently high standard and provide a choral musical education for performers and audiences. The Choir’s concerts have attracted some of the most prestigious performers on the world stage including Dame Felicity Lott, Susan Bullock, Martyn Hill and Michael Chance. The Choir has also worked with some of the UK’s leading actors ranging from Prunella Scales to Andrew Sachs and from Janet Suzman to David Kossof, made recordings with Martin Jarvis and Timothy West and through the renowned annual Christmas concert Market Harborough audiences have also enjoyed performances from acclaimed actors including Patricia Routledge and Simon Russell Beale.

The Harborough Singers regularly commission and premiere new choral works. Over the years the Choir has given first performances of works by Edward Gregson, Trevor Hold, David Jepson, Kendal Kirkland and Charles Paterson among others.

"The Harborough Singers are characterised by the commitment of our members. We represent all walks of life and come from a wide range of backgrounds, roles and professions - not to mention vary large radius of Market Harborough..! We are passionate about sharing both music (and cake) for everyone to enjoy, whatever their age or background. We work hard and play hard, in pursuit of musical excellence.."


why we eat cake

Long ago, when we all wore knee socks and pigtails, school rules demanded that a female member of staff came along on choir trips as well as our male conductor.  Sheila Childs, an almost retired French teacher, was lumbered with the task of keeping the girls in order. She rose to the challenge, kept us out of trouble and along the way, became a stalwart supporter.

When the Harborough Singers was formed, school leavers were summoned from their various universities for rehearsal at weekends. Sheila manned the tea urn. And baked. Lemon cake, Banana and walnut flapjacks, boiled fruit cake…

Sheila, cake and choir became synonymous. When she died, we sang at her funeral and were sad.

Then we made a cake rota so that the tradition of cake and choir that Sheila had established would carry on. Today, Sheila’s recipes are all in our ‘coffee time cake book’. We still eat cake and we still sing as well as we possibly can.

I think she’d be delighted

CHARLIE PENN  - Musical Director

CHARLIE PENN - Musical Director

NIC CUMMINGS  - Assistant Director

NIC CUMMINGS - Assistant Director

Charlie graduated from the University of Birmingham where he studied piano with Joseph Middleton. Charlie is a Britten-Pears Young Artist 2013, previously joining the music staff for ‘Grimes on the Beach’ in Aldeburgh, and recently performing on organ, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. He also appeared in Orpheus, an original piece devised and performed by Little Bulb Theatre, and has even made a brief appearance on the BBC’s The One Show, teaching Lee Mack some basic piano vamping!

Alongside his Directorship of the Harborough Singers, he runs Phoenix Chorale and is Assistant Director of Cantate Youth Choir. Whilst living in Birmingham he was Director of Stone Choral Society and a visiting tutor at the Birmingham School of Acting. He is in demand as an accompanist and works with students at both the University of Birmingham and the Birmingham Conservatoire. He has also worked with a number of soloists including Sir Willard White and Wendy Dawn Thompson.

Charlie’s huge breadth of musical experience have led him to work with many prestigious musical organisations including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Armonico Consort and the national singing programme, Sing Up! He has also assisted in the running of the choral course at the international Sherborne Summer School of Music and regularly directs the Cambridge Holiday Orchestra Association.

Charlie joined the Harborough Singers in September 2019

Nic is a long-standing member of the Harborough Singers, having first joined the Youth Choir in 1980 for a US and Canada tour, famously turning up for one of the concerts having forgotten his trousers. Despite this, Nic remains a loyal and highly respected member of the Singers..!

Nic’s musical career began at the age of seven, when he had his first piano lesson in Great Bowden. By the age of 14, he had been awarded a music scholarship to Rugby School. At Rugby, he honed his skills on both Piano and Clarinet, performing concertos on both by the age of 17. Nic also composes and was delighted to have his Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis settings performed by the Singers at Norwich Cathedral in 2012.

While Nic now lives in Nottingham, 2013 saw the whole family embark on an adventure to live and work in Sydney, Australia, returning in 2016. This included one of his personal musical highlights - Brahms Requiem in Sydney Opera House as part of a choir of several hundred singers.

Nic’s appointment to Assistant Director of the Singers in 2019 has been widely welcomed - a natural extension of the many years he has assisted with sectional and full rehearsals.

TIM BLADES  - Chairman

TIM BLADES - Chairman

ANDREW KING  - Accompanist

ANDREW KING - Accompanist

Tim is the principal momentum behind the choir and has been since 1805 when he was just eleven (OK, that is a bit of a guess). The first to arrive and the last to leave from every concert, Tim supports all the myriad of functions necessary in running a chamber choir.

He is a walking encyclopaedia of the choir’s history and its current activities, chairs the committee, organises individuals within the ranks to take on various roles and duties and manages the charity status of the choir - with all that entails.

For his own choral pleasure, Tim enjoys nothing more than singing in the middle of the bass section, whether in a concert or rehearsal. A great advocate of non-choral activities, Tim is usually the one to arrange suppers, walks - even just a quick visit to the pub between a rehearsal and a performance (sensible vocal lubrication, you understand..)

Like all the Singers, Tim is completely committed to the choir, its music, its members and its appetite for cake - of all denominations.

From an early age, Andrew King showed an interest in music and had his first piano lesson at the age of six. Three years later, he became a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, and shortly after leaving, began learning the organ, passing the diploma of ARCO whilst at school.  He moved to Northampton after completing an MA at Jesus College, Cambridge where he was an Organ Scholar.

He has toured widely throughout Europe, the USA, Singapore, Poland and New Zealand, and has been accompanist to the Harborough Singers since 1997.  When not making music, he is self-building a major extension to his home which ultimately will accommodate an organ which he has rescued from a redundant Church in Birmingham.

When time permits he also enjoys exploring railways, walking his dog, Toby, and generally pottering around in the garden.

Andrew currently works as a freelance teacher, pianist and organist in Northamptonshire.

Click here to visit Andrew's website 


Technically, I suppose the Harborough Singers is a Chamber Choir. That’s a choir that’s diminutive enough to fit into a chamber (a small room, not a pot). Though, to be honest, would you want to be in an undersized room with them?

No, I thought not.

Thirty voices make a heck of a din when they’re all singing at once, on the right note, at the same time, superbly together and perfectly blended. Which is what they’re all striving valiantly to achieve. 

Sometimes, with a fair wind and plenty of practice, they even get it right, and pull off that hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment. This makes them (and their conductor) blissfully happy. For all of twenty seconds. Then it’s gone again and they’re back to all that valiant striving. Ah well.

Perhaps I’m underestimating the twenty seconds. After all, plenty of important and musical people have been saying nice things about them since 1978, when they first trod the boards with conductor Barry Clark under the name ‘The Harborough Singers’ and made off with a load of illicit prize-money from the Bela Bartok Choral festival in Hungary. They’ve travelled a lot since then. West as far as the USA and Canada, and east as far as Poland, where they sang in their most bizarre venue ever…

... a salt mine

St Pauls

St Pauls





Fame and the Famous...

At compass points in between, they’ve been lucky enough to sing in many beautiful churches, concert halls, and cathedrals (Worcester, Southwark, Peterborough, Norwich - and many more...) including the iconic St. Paul’s, where they stood in for the choristers and sang evensong. An enormous honour.

One their proudest moments took place far more locally, not far from the choir’s base in Market Harborough. In 1759 two hundred landaus, chariots and post-chaises flocked to the sleepy Leicestershire village of Church Langton, to witness the first performance of Handel’s Messiah in an English Church. Two hundred and fifty years later, the choir was invited to join a cast of distinguished soloists, including Dame Felicity Lott and Michael Chance, to recreate the historic event. This time, alas, the carriages were all of the horseless variety. But the music … ah, the music was breathtaking.

The choir loves it’s work with professionals. Over the years Martin Jarvis, Jon Pertwee, Janet Suzman, Patricia Routledge, Simon Russell-Beale, Timothy West, Prunella Scales and loads of others have all performed with the choir. One of the highlights of the choir’s year is their annual Celebration of Christmas, an interweaving of seasonal words and music with a guest celebrity. It’s always a sell out, and there are mincepies. And mulled wine.  

Fairly obviously, the choir also loves music. Of the Heinz 57 variety. Anything, from medieval to modern, classic to rock and pop. They’ve sung with brass bands, jazz bands and rock bands. Orchestras, organs and oboes. They don’t care. If it has dots and lines, they’ll give it a bash.

They’ve won prizes and been on radio and TV. Perhaps I really am underestimating that twenty seconds. It might be more like thirty.

The Choir receives no external funding from The Arts Council or local authority and relies entirely on its own endeavours to finance its activities. Singing members pay the choir’s basic running and rehearsal costs, but we depend on our supporters to help us maintain our financial independence – and importantly, our artistic freedom. This is seldom enough to undertake all the work that the Choir would like to initiate. The Choir is therefore dependent on the on-going generosity of its members and supporters.

As a registered charity, we can accept donations from individuals, businesses and charitable trusts and foundations. The Harborough Singers would welcome your support through attendance at concerts, the purchase of CD's, promotion of concerts, advertising in programmes and through donations or sponsorship, but whatever you do, ensure that your name is added to our mailing list so you get information about concerts and other events first and priority in booking tickets.


We are so lucky to have such passionate and involved Sponsors and Friends; in return for their generous support we offer several levels of advance information, priority booking and added benefits. Organisations and individuals are able to make one off donations, buy raffle tickets or donate to a specific appeal.

If you would like to advertise in our various programmes, we have great value full and half page packages available by talking to Julia here

and finally,

Sing with us. We are always on the lookout for new members (right now, we are especially keen to hear from Tenors, Baritone and Bass voices)

Further information about all these fantastic means of support is available from Tim Blades here.