Music Staff

Director of music - Mrs YiRu Hall

YiRu Chiam Hall was born in Manchester and was educated at Manchester High School for Girls, where she was awarded the prestigious Ida Carroll Music Scholarship. At the age of 16 she became the youngest member of the Hallé Choir, performing regularly at The Bridgewater Hall with the Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic.

In 1998 YiRu gained a Choral Exhibition to Cambridge University. Whilst at Cambridge she studied singing with Alison Wells and after completing her music degree she continued her vocal studies with Sandra Dugdale. In 2001 YiRu returned to Cambridge to teach at St Mary’s School and in 2006 she was appointed Head of Academic Music at Portsmouth Grammar School. During this time she worked regularly with the London Mozart Players and performed in world premieres of works by leading contemporary composers such as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sally Beamish, Cecilia McDowell and Stephen Montague.

In 2012 YiRu became Director of Music at St Swithun’s and currently runs the three school choirs and the Symphony Orchestra.

YiRu is a conductor of the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain and also examines for Edexcel and the International Baccalaureate. She is married to David and together they run the Hampshire-based chamber choir, Viva Voces.

Assistant director of music - Miss Elizabeth Barter

Elizabeth was a music scholar at Ardingly College and organ scholar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she read music. She completed her PGCE at Huddersfield University.  A Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, Liz is an experienced organist and accompanist, having worked with many choirs and choral societies throughout her career.

Her career in music education has seen her teach in schools in Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, and until Summer 2012, as assistant director of music at Abbots Bromley School for Girls in Staffordshire. Highlights at Abbots Bromley included accompanying the choir on tour in venues such as Lichfield Cathedral, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Westminster Abbey, St Peter’s Rome, St Patrick’s New York, Notre Dame Paris, Barcelona Cathedral, and Grace Cathedral San Francisco.

Liz is an examiner for Edexcel GCSE Music and a keen viola player, playing with Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra until her move to St Swithun’s.

Head of instrumental studies - Ms Natasha Wright

Natasha completed her undergraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, gaining a Bmus(Hons) degree and a diploma in performance before moving to London to complete her Masters Degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has performed as viola soloist with the Manchester Camerata and has been a member of the BBC Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, the Philharmonia and for the eight years previous to joining St Swithun’s, the London Symphony Orchestra. 

For Natasha, highlights have included recording the soundtracks of the final Star Wars and Harry Potter films, episodes of Downton Abbey and performing at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Mr Clive Watkiss

Clive Watkiss studied piano, cello and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London and won the Review Week Prize (1977) for a critical resumé. He subsequently, took further advanced studies in conducting with Harry Newstone (formerly the principal conductor of the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra).

Clive has conducted widely in the south of England; a repertoire which includes opera, musical theatre, symphonic and choral music. His choir at Desborough School, Maidenhead, appeared annually at the Royal Festival Hall in London and made recordings for a number of agencies including one with the Ambrosian Singers for Sparrow Records, USA.

As a composer Clive made his debut with The Progress Theatre in Reading and went on to work as composer and musical director with the Berkshire Shakespeare Players, Southampton Solent University and a number of other educational establishments. Most recently, he wrote the score for St Swithun’s own production of The Ash Girl, a Christmas piece entitled Gabriel, That Angel Bright, for Swithun Choir, and music for the online TV blog of the New Forest’s TerraVina hotel. His carol, Dormi Jesu has been recorded by the Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Visiting music teachers

We are incredibly fortunate at St Swithun’s to attract a diverse and highly talented group of over 35 visiting music teachers and Alexander Technique teachers on a weekly part-time basis to teach approximately 450 lessons. Every one of our music teachers is a highly successful professional performer and teacher; many have been soloists at major venues such as the Wigmore Hall and South Bank centre, London and La Scala, Milan with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Israeli Chamber Orchestra, ENO, Academy of Ancient Music, King’s Consort, RPO, St Martin in the Fields and BBC Symphony Orchestra, to mention just a few. Our Alexander Technique professors are also highly qualified and often give lectures both in the UK and abroad.

The girls are offered a broad array of musical instruments and styles to choose from.We have a specialist jazz piano teacher who has studied in Boston, USA; a violin/viola teacher who has played with Flook and Michael McGoldrick and is an accomplished Irish traditional musician, and three specialist guitar teachers, teaching classical, acoustic and electric guitar. Some of our teachers have been made Associates of the Royal Academy of Music in recognition of their performing achievements and most teach in either the senior or junior departments of the main London conservatoires; at Eton, Wellington & Winchester Colleges and Reading & Southampton Universities.