Musical Director – Jonathan Palmer

Jonathan spent the early part of his life in Bath, and was educated at King Edward’s School, and Prior Park College. During these years, he played the cello in Bath Youth Orchestra, and studied with Brian Greensmith while a student in Yorkshire. His musical studies continued at Reading University where he studied composition with Andrew Byrne and conducted the Reading University Singers. Later he studied conducting with George Hurst and John Carewe and developed his composition for a while under Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. His teaching career began in Southampton, continued in Bruton, Somerset, diversified in Bermuda and he finally settled in Bristol, UK, where he was appointed as Director of Music at Clifton High School in 1994.

He decided to retire in 2007 in order to concentrate on his composition, and for eight years was a part-time research student at the University of Bristol. In August 2010 he was awarded the Raymond Warren Prize for Composition. Having studied under Professor Geoff Poole and Professor John Pickard, he completed his PhD in Composition in January 2015, and became a Fellow of Trinity College, London, in Composition.

Over the years he has conducted numerous choral societies and orchestras, including Hythe Choral Society, Southampton, Wincanton Choral Society, Somerset and Clifton High School Choral Society, Bristol. His choice of repertoire is varied, from Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert to Vaughan Williams, Bernstein, Gershwin, and Rutter. In 1984, he directed performances of Olivier Messiaen’s Trois Petites Liturgies at Sherborne Abbey and Clifton Cathedral, and in 2007, conducted a large-scale performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana with massed choirs at the Colston Hall, Bristol.

Jonathan was appointed Musical Director of Portishead Choral Society in September 2013. During the 2013-14 season, he directed the choir in Handel’s Messiah , Gounod’s Messe Solennelle de Sainte-Cécile and Edward German’s Merrie England . In the spring of 2014, he composed a special new cantata for the choir to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Awake the Voice , a thirty minute work in six movements for chorus, soloists, audience and orchestra, received its first performance in Gordano School, Portishead in December 2014. It was subsequently performed again in December 2018 in Clifton Cathedral in a collaborative Christmas-themed concert with Nailsea Choral Society and Chew Valley Choral Society. He enjoys the challenge of devising imaginative programmes for the concerts, and always tries to combine sacred and secular, familiar and the less-known, old and new, while seizing any opportunity for the audience to participate! In June 2019, the finale of the concert ‘From Russia with Love’ even required the audience to sing in Russian!

In 2009, he was appointed as a Choral Director for ‘Choirs at Sea’, and for a time, enjoyed numerous voyages on cruise ships forming choirs from the passengers. However, with the pandemic, he has withdrawn from that activity, and is eagerly awaiting the chance to direct the choral society once again. He plays both the cello and the double bass, and particularly enjoys playing chamber music. In his spare time he enjoys maintaining his classic cars, instrument restoration, cooking and travelling.