Nicholas Wilks took up his post as Musical Director of Greenock Philharmonic Choir in summer 2023, having moved to North Ayrshire from Hampshire.
Nicholas studied conducting and clarinet as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music. His experience as a singer and conductor is wide and varied, and has included a range of musical directorships, including the Finchley Children’s Music Group (with whom he recorded works by Britten as well as a CD for the Milken Archive of Jewish Music), Aurum Vocale, New Youth Opera, the North Herts Guild of Singers, Petersfield Musical Festival, the Channel Islands Youth Orchestra, Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, Haringey Young Musicians, Winchester Music Club and Winchester Symphony Orchestra.
Nicholas is committed to contemporary music, and has given the first performances of music by Oliver Tarney, Francis Pott, Howard Goodall, Brian Chapple, William Cole, Roderick Skeaping. His performances have included conducting the première of Alec Roth’s Earth and Sky at the BBC Proms, Brahms’ Requiem with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Bryn Terfel, as well as a Sunday Telegraph’s Critic’s Choice recording of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and A Ceremony of Carols with Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Benjamin Luxon and David Wilson-Johnson.
Nicholas has broadcast widely on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4, and has greatly enjoyed working with distinguished soloists including Alison Balsom, Joanna MacGregor, Roderick Williams, Claire Rutter, Emma Kirkby, Peter Harvey, Joo Yeon Sir, Rosalind Ventris, Sasha Sitkovetsky and David Campbell. As Musical Director of the Finchley Children’s Music Group he worked closely with Sir Colin Davis, Sir Andrew Davis, Neeme Jarvi and André Previn.
Nicholas is a passionate advocate for music education, and works as a volunteer for the Big Noise (Sistema Scotland) in Govanhill.
He is a trustee for Buskaid, a string teaching project in Soweto, South Africa, and is a Patron of the Finchley Children’s Music Group. Nicholas aims to ensure that rehearsals are an enjoyable and exciting process of discovery, and by exploring the connection between the notes and the text every singer in the choir comes to feel an essential part of the music.
Hebba Benyaghla is an active pianist and chamber musician based in Glasgow and a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where she completed her Undergraduate and Masters Degrees. She was the first recipient of the Principal’s Scholarship, studying with Prof. Aaron Shorr and Graeme McNaught.
Hebba enjoys a diverse musical career, working with many of Scotland’s National companies including Scottish Opera, The National Youth Choirs of Scotland, RSNO Chorus and Junior Chorus, and as an accompanist and Lecturer in Piano for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Junior Department.
Hebba maintains a keen interest in music education and regularly collaborates with Music Co-Operative Scotland (McOpera) in their Education and Outreach Projects. She has performed as part of many events and festivals including the Oxford Lieder Festival, Aurora Chamber Music Festival (Sweden), The Lammermuir Festival, Music at Paxton, Haddo Arts, Forum Musikae Academia International de Musica (Madrid), The Young Classical Artists Programme at Queen’s Hall Edinburgh and on BBC Radio 3 as part of International Women’s Day, celebrating the work of female composers. She has also taken part in masterclasses with renowned pianists and musicians including Sir Antonio Pappano, Solomon Mikowsky, Julius Drake, Stephen Hough, Pascal Rogé and Martin Roscoe.
Hebba was a member of the London Sinfonietta Academy and was an Associate of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Foyle Future Firsts programme for the 2021/22 season. This year Hebba was selected as a Britten-Pears Young Artist for Collaborative Piano 2022/23. Hebba first joined Greenock Philharmonic Choir as their accompanist in 2018, and has thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of repertoire the choir performs!
Andy McTaggart graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2012, where he attended the Alexander Gibson Opera School and studied with George Gordon and Kathleen McKellar Ferguson.
He received many awards at the RCS including the David Knox Memorial Prize, the Governor's Recital prize for singing, and the Florence Veitch Ibler Prize for Oratorio Singing.
Andy has a very wide and varied repertoire having sung in Belshazzar's Feast with the Scottish National Orchestra, Messiah at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and in Howard Goodhall's Eternal Light with the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast.
Andrew has been heard on BBC Radio 3 performing Finzi's 'Let Us Garlands Bring' as part of the Crear Scholarship with Martin Martineau, Vaughan William's Five Mystical Songs and Eternal Light with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. He is also a former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist, with roles in La Traviata, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Pirates of Penzance and Carmen to mention only a few and is presently also conductor of Cumnock Festival Choir for James McMillan.
In 2017 and 2018 Andy's engagements included Gasper for West Green Opera. He continues to work on community outreach programmes with Scottish Opera.
Andy was already an old acquaintance of the Phil, having been a soloist at our performance of Rossini's Messa Di Gloria in 2012. He had a very informal style, and believed that rehearsals should be fun, while having a clear idea in his mind of what he is aiming for.
His first appearance with the choir was at the Christmas concert on the 9th December 2017 when the programme included the Vivaldi Gloria, but mainly Christmas melodies of all the favourite songs and carols which everyone loves. Andy’s last season with the choir culminated in a performance of Elijah by Mendelssohn with the Glasgow Chamber Orchestra.