Pete Churchill

Pete Churchill

Jazz

Hon ARAM

Voice; Composition and Arranging; Repertoire and Improvisation

Pete was born in London in 1961 and following his schooling here he studied music at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada - eventually returning to London again for a post-graduate year in composition and arranging at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

 

He has been a Professor of Jazz studies at the Guildhall since 1988 - his harmony classes here have since become legendary and he also directs and writes for the vocal ensemble. He is a member of the faculty at the Royal Academy of Music teaching jazz composition and he has recently concluded a long spell as a Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies at Middlesex University where amongst other things he ran the large gospel choir.

 

Although he is obviously well known as a teacher Pete also manages a hectic freelance career both as a writer and as a performer - being equally well known as a jazz-pianist and a singer.

 

His long-standing interest in Music Theatre and song-writing has resulted in two appearances at the Vivien Ellis Prize for new musicals. In 1988 he won the Special Prize for the gospel musical David and Goliath and in 1992 he was outright winner with a show entitled Cecil Jackson fights back. Songs from both these shows subsequently gained Gold and Platinum discs when released seperately in Denmark. Following this in 1993 Pete's reputation as a jazz pianist and vocal coach led to a year's hard labour as Musical Director for Five Guys named Moe in the West End and he subsequently decided to return to the more precarious life of the freelance jazz musician and educator.

 

Since that time Pete has been fortunate to travel the world both as a performer and as a teacher. His work in both these areas has taken him to Finland, Russia, France, Bulgaria as well as all around the British Isles where his role as an educator takes him to schools, community centres and into prisons - he has only recently returned from Australia where he spent three weeks running a professional development course for music teachers in jazz skills. This last trip was a result of his close association with the ground-breaking jazz syllabus developed by the Associated Board for which he is a Consulting Editor and a contributing composer and arranger. Other educational publications include a Small Band Jazz series for Stainer and Bell Publishers and a forthcoming book for Oxford University Press outlining his method of teaching choirs by ear.

 

As a pianist Pete has worked with many of the leading jazz names here and abroad and for the last decade has been the U.K. Musical Director for the legendary American jazz singer Mark Murphy. He also runs a trio under his own name with a critically acclaimed album released last year called The Bad and the Beautiful - featuring the great Scottish sax player Bobby Wellins.

 

As a singer, Pete is a member of the Kenny Wheeler Vocal Project with the wonderful Norma Winstone and in addition to this his work with Kenny both as a singer and arranger has led in recent years to high profile appearances at the Berlin jazz festival and the Summer Jazz festival in central Finland. Most recently he conducted the Kenny Wheeler Big Band at concerts in London and at the Appleby Festival in the north of England.

 

Over the past few years Pete has not only directed that great jazz/choral work, Ellington's Sacred Music, with Stan Tracey but last year found him singing the baritone lead as well - in a performance with the Echoes of Ellington Orchestra at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. In June of 2004 he led the Glasgow Jazz Festival Chorus opening the festival in a concert with Lianne Carol and the Bancroft brothers. He has travelled worldwide in his capacity as a choral director and educator - this year has taken him to Australia and Hong Kong with further trips planned to the Far East over the rest of the year.

 

With such experience behind him Pete has become recognised as a composer for, and director of, large ensembles - able to handle the logistical and administrative challenges of bringing disparate forces together. Recent commissions include two oratorios, David and Goliath - for five hundred children, soloists and big-band (performed at the Albert Hall in April of 2003) and Babel - for narrator, five hundred strong children's choir and nonet - commissioned last year by Barking and Dagenham music services. December 2004 saw the premier of a piece called Bethlehem combining Israeli and Palestinian poetry with a traditonal Christmas carol. It was commissioned by St Marylebone School in London and scored for three choirs, orchestra, soloist, rhythm section and an African drumming ensemble. With such educational projects, the focus for the children is as much on the process of pulling it all together as it is on the presentation of the finished product.

Looking ahead, there are exciting new projects to develop and various commissions with their attendant deadlines fast approaching as Pete continues to juggle the different sides of his career as a busy singer/pianist/arranger/composer - all this is in addition to his on-going work as one of Europe's leading jazz educators.