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Concert dates The Choir History Mozart Requiem Douglas Leadbitter Catherine Fish

 


Douglas Leadbitter

Douglas Leadbitter, founder and first conductor of Stornoway Singers, was born in Hexham, Northumberland and studied music at Birmingham and Durham Universities. After 3 years teaching in deepest Essex he headed for the Highlands and ended up in Stornoway where he has taught for over 30 years. He says that originally intending to "see what the place is like" he, like many others, wonders where the years have gone.

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Tribute by Ali Whiteford

It is fair to say that Douglas Leadbitter is known and respected throughout the musical and wider community of the Western Isles for his commitment to and involvement in making music, with the joy and fulfilment that this brings. In his teaching he has enriched and continues to enrich the lives of many young people and must take great satisfaction in the occasional brave soul who sets off down the path of their own musical career to confront in the words of Borodin ‘that old perplexity - an empty purse’.

However, it is not just younger generations who have benefited from his knowledge, patience and enthusiasm. Around 1982, with some like-minded enthusiasts he formed a small madrigal group which met in his flat in South Beach Street. From this happy nucleus developed the Stornoway Chamber Choir - soon to become Stornoway Singers - with Douglas as its Director, Conductor, Accompanist, Secretary and Treasurer. The first major production was a grand affair when Dido and Aeneas was performed in the ballroom of Lews Castle.

 

For the next 30 years Douglas continued to be the driving force of the choir and annual Spring and Xmas concerts established an informal approach where Douglas’s relaxed, informative style set both the audience and the singers at ease. The programmes reflected Douglas’s eclectic tastes, and he was never afraid to tackle major works. The happy-go-lucky singers always had total confidence in his ability to mould them into a joyous, unified, purposeful sound. This he did by dint of encouragement, firm direction and honesty laced with gentle humour, both subtle and wry, forcing us to confront ourselves and respond. We loved it !

Douglas loved to take the choir on the road. Although never off the island, frequent concerts were given in St Clements church in Rodel. These trips initially involved a lot of organising of chairs, generator, lighting, cables, transport, refreshment and he (nearly) always managed to arrange the June weather. They were always memorable and not just for the singing: failing generators plunged the church into darkness, silenced the keyboard and caused musical mayhem.

Earlier this year the Singers held a retirement party for Douglas in the Woodlands Centre with present and past members. It was another grand occasion with fine food, drinks, cake cutting (pictured above), speeches, and of course music. 30 years as a conductor is a long time. The Singers are immensely grateful for the time Douglas has given which has given them the opportunity to indulge in their passion for singing with others. Their musical horizons and experiences have been widened and expectations raised; the community has become richer.