The society has been well served over the years by several fine conductors. The current principal conductor is Andrew Parnell. From the 2015-16 season the principal conductor will be Richard Laing.
Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Leicester Bach Choir, Midland Sinfonia, and the Bach Camerata; Artistic Director of the Leamington Chamber Orchestra; Principal Guest Conductor of Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and Associate Conductor of Chandos Symphony Orchesta. Richard was the first Conducting Scholar at Birmingham Conservatoire, where after just nine months of study he was awarded his Masters Degree, a Postgraduate Diploma, and the Postgraduate Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the musical life of the college. Immediately thereafter he was appointed to the post of Associate Conductor with the virtuoso young ensemble Sinfonia Cymru.
Richard's operatic work has included performances with Dartington Festival Opera, Birmingham Conservatoire, Operamus, Kent Opera and Pigotts. He has collaborated with pricipal players from a dozen of Europe and America's greatest orchestras, and has a close working relationship with some of the brightest young stars of the classical music world. He has collaborated with a diverse range of cross-over artists, including Alfie Boe, Tim Minchin and Radio 1 DJ Bobby Friction.
As a Chorus Master Richard regularly prepares choirs for orchestras such as the Halle, the Rinaldo Consort, Sinfona ViVA and the National Children's Orchestra, for conductors such as Cristian Mandeal and Sir Mark Elder; future work includes choral preparation of Carmina Burana for the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Until 2001, Andrew Parnell’s professional career was centred on St Albans. At the cathedral, he was Assistant Master of the Music and Founder/Director of the Abbey Girls Choir. He was also Music Master and Choral Director at St Albans School, and Conductor of the St Albans Symphony Orchestra. Then he relinquished these posts to establish a freelance career as an organist, composer, and conductor.
Andrew has retained strong links with cathedral music, as Acting Assistant Organist at the Cathedrals in Ely, Canterbury, Wakefield and Southwell, and as acting Director of Music at Ely in 2006. He worked at Canterbury for a third stint in 2008, which included the Lambeth Conference. Andrew continues to be offered engagements here and abroad as organ soloist or accompanist, recently appearing with choirs in Cambridge, St Albans, Guildford, Orpington and Bath Abbey and as solo recitalist in St Albans Abbey and St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich.
His compositions, both sacred and secular, have been performed in the UK and abroad. Recent projects include Variations on ‘Ave maris stella’ for organ, Duo-concerto for Cor Anglais, Clarinet and Strings, a saints’ day anthem for Blackburn Cathedral, a major work for Cambridgeshire Choral Society, premiered in King’s College Chapel in February 2010, and Variations on ‘The Green Bushes’ commissioned by the Cambridge Clarinet Choir.
Andrew conducts the Cambridgeshire and the Ely Choral Societies, the Wymondham Symphony Orchestra, and, annually, the St Albans–based chamber choir Carillon. A recent joy has been to establish and guide the new Ely Youth Choir. 2010’s events ranged from Peace Child Alpha Omega, David Gordon’s contemporary musical/oratorio, to Dvořák’s 6th Symphony, to Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality.