The St Mary Magdalene Choral Foundation began in September 2017. For information on applying and the role that Choral Scholars have at St Mary Magdalene, please click here.
Soprano Choral Scholar – Fran Stafford
Fran recently completed her postgraduate diploma in vocal studies at the Royal College of Music, as well as postgraduate studies in music performance at Royal Holloway University. She studied Psychology for her degree at Royal Holloway University of London, where she sang as a choral scholar. There she trained and performed with The King’s Singers, Eric Whitacre, and recorded 3 Albums with Hyperion. She performed as a scholar and soloist in leading UK concert venues and has toured across Europe. Notably she sang in the Royal Albert Hall’s 2015 Festival of Remembrance, broadcasting live on BBC1, and at the Festival for the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, attended by The Royal Family and the Prime Minister. Fran has made appearances on BBC Radio 3 with the Britten Sinfonia, the Choir of Royal Holloway, and the Jazz Trio Acoustic Triangle. She also sang in the UK premier of Sir James Macmillan’s St. Luke Passion, performed in London’s Barbican Hall, and broadcast live from King’s College, Cambridge.
Fran has enjoyed performing at festivals, as a recitalist and on the opera stage. She was awarded the Festival Cup for the most promising vocalist by Marlow festival of Music and Drama and then won the Oxford Music Festival Song Recital award and sponsorship. She was invited to develop her classical singing with British Youth Opera, and since then has enjoyed singing the role of Barbarina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro for Matchbox Opera in 2020, and is now looking forward to singing Alice for Opera Alegria’s production of Rossini’s Count Ory in January 2022.
Between studies, Fran has shared her passion for music through her role as radio presenter of Choice Classics on Marlow fm. Her programmes explore varied themes such as space, gothic tales, and mythology. She also enjoyed working with the talented young singers at Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in her role of director of their 2019 senior production, Sweeney Todd, a work she knows well having before played Mrs Lovett with Royal Borough Youth Opera.
Off the performance platform, Fran plays football, goes climbing, and is kept on her toes by her spaniel puppy, Joe. She is seen daily sprinting in short bursts across the park, waving chicken pieces and making odd noises practice his recall.
Counter-Tenor Choral Scholar – Will Keeler
Will began singing in a choral setting in his home town, later city, as a chorister at Chelmsford Cathedral where he gained a wealth of experience under conductor, singer and composer Peter Nardone and later under current Organist and Master of the Choristers, James Davy. Throughout his time in the Cathedral Choir, he was exposed to a wide range of music and had the opportunity to perform in a variety of concerts. After his fifth and final year, he left the choir and his post as head chorister to explore other creative paths, during which time, he sang as a member of the senior choir at New Hall School which he attended from 2012 until 2019.
Fast forward several years, Will contacted his old Organist and Master of the Choristers, James Davy, to help him prepare for his A level recital, where he suggested that Will apply for a choral scholarship as a countertenor to occupy his gap year. Even with relatively little experience as a countertenor prior to his audition, Will decided to give it a go. After successfully auditioning, he returned to Chelmsford Cathedral as a member of the back row and found himself very comfortable singing as a countertenor until the arrival of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic.
Will has not been able to sing much choral music recently so he is thrilled to be singing in a choral setting once more at St Mary Magdalene as he has not been part of a choir since the abrupt ending of his last choral scholarship (and hopefully he’ll get to the end of this one!).
Aside from singing, Will also enjoys playing his viola in his spare time and has a real interest and passion for cocktail mixology and flair and bodyboarding. It might interest you to know that he is also quite an accomplished, all-round performer and has performed in a range of settings from an early age. He has studied Classical Ballet, Tap, Hip-hop, Commercial and Jazz dance among other styles for many years. He is an avid lover and performer of Musical Theatre and acting and has had some experience performing professionally as a child on TV, in the West End and on tour. His credits include: The Sound of Music as Friedrich (UK tour, produced by Bill Kenwright,2015), Richard III as Duke of York (Trafalgar Studios, Jamie Lloyd Productions, 2014), Singin’ in the Rain as Young Cosmo (Palace Theatre, Choreographed by Andrew Wright 2012), Original West End cast of Matilda the Musical as Nigel (Cambridge Theatre, Directed by Matthew Warchus, 2011-2012), Priscilla Queen of the Desert as Benji (Palace Theatre, directed by Simon Phillips, 2010-2011), Eastenders as Colin (BBC, 2008).
Will aims to return to his roots as a performer of the stage and screen as his career progresses. He is currently in his second year of training at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom studying Musical Theatre.
Tenor Choral Scholar – Alexander Ledsham
A graduate of Anglia Ruskin University, Alex Ledsham is a highly experienced singer, both as a soloist and ensemble singer. Currently based in Cambridge, Alex sang with the Chapel Choir of Emmanuel College for three years, and St John’s Voices – the mixed voice choir of St John’s College for five years. In 2019 he was privileged to take part in St John’s Voices’ first commercial CD recording (for the NAXOS label) – a CD of Choral music by the Welsh composer William Mathias. He also regularly deputises with choirs both in Cambridge and further afield.
Alex has experience of singing a wide range of music (from Early Medieval Music through to Contemporary music), but his specialism and the music he feels most at home in, is Early Music. Alex’s oratorio work includes; The Evangelist in Heinrich Schütz’s Weihnachtshistorie; excerpts from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Mass in C, and his operatic roles include; Don Curzio in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
In addition to being the Tenor Scholar with the Choir of St Mary Magdalene, Richmond, Alex also holds a scholarship with Chiswick Choir and was previously the Tenor Scholar with the Choir of St Mary’s, Battersea. Alex has a particular interest in Baroque opera, and is currently undertaking a couple of research projects – researching, transcribing and editing music written for specific tenors of the Baroque Period, with his current focus being on music written for the Italians Annibale Pio Fabri and Antonio Barbieri. Outside of music, Alex has an interest in cooking, is an avid player of board and card games, and a keen historian.