The Winkleigh Singers

Registered Charity Number 1171218

Hon. Patron:

Sir Richard Stilgoe

Musical Director:

Roland Smith

Established in 1984 in one of the remotest parts of Devon, the Winkleigh Singers enjoy a broad repertoire from early to contemporary music.

In January 2017 The Charity Commissioners registered the  choir as a charity recognising that The Winkleigh Singers is established for charitable purposes only for the public benefit. The charity's objective are stated as:

  1. to advance, improve, develop and maintain public education in, and appreciation of, the art and science of music in all its aspects by any means the trustees see fit, including through the presentation of public concerts and recitals;
  2. to provide facilities which promote the practice or enjoyment of the art of music for recreation or other leisure time occupation and to make them available in the interests of social welfare to individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disablement, financial hardship or social and economic circumstances or for the public at large with the object of improving conditions of life.


The choir has recorded works by John Byrt and Ira-Paul Schwarz and a CD of Christmas Music.

The choir has performed with Devon Baroque, The British Chamber Orchestra, Bartholomew String Ensemble, The Four Seasons String Ensemble and North Devon Sinfonia. Their regular organ accompanists include Andrew Daldorph and Andrew Downton. They have a policy of encouraging talented young soloists, regularly employing students and recent graduates from the major music colleges (including the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music).

The Winkleigh Singers have enjoyed several tours in France, and in April 2003 the choir visited Hungary as guests of Vox Hungarica, performing at Matthias Church, Budapest, (in the presence of Árpád Göncz) and at the Concert Hall of the Music Department of Budapest University, to capacity audiences. We were pleased to welcome Vox Hungarica here in Devon in the following September when, with them, we gave two memorable concerts of (mostly) Hungarian music.

Great fun was had at a charity concert held at Castle Hill, North Devon, during which the choir performed Paul Patterson's Little Red Riding Hood Songbook (words Roald Dahl) with our Hon. Patron Richard Stilgoe as narrator and bass Rob Paynter prowling in the background, sporting a wolf's head! It was on this occasion that the choir became known as "the wrinkly singers, those stars from beyond the haemorrhoids"!

Workshops have been held in recent years to which other singers and choirs are always invited. Previous workshops have been led by, amongst others, Evelyn Tubb, Nigel Perrin and Deborah Miles-Johnson.

Over the years the choir has given several first performances, notably Colin Hodgett's Season Songs (with Evelyn Tubb as the soloist) and John Lane's Maggott, Sam Richards' Midwinter Ceremonies, these being commissioned by The Beaford Centre. In 1994, to celebrate The Winkleigh Singers' tenth anniversary, a competition was organised for young composers, and the winning work by Paul Holland, At a Lunar Eclipse, was given its first performance by the choir as part of their summer concert that year. Dr Simon Standing's Magnificat and Nunc Dimmitis were first performed by the choir in 1998. In 2012 they gave the first performance of A Springtime Garland, settings of four poems of Robert Herrick by Francis Chandler. Later that year, at their Christmas Concert, they gave the first European  perfomance of Derek Healey's A Maiden Mild and the first ever performance of a new version for SATB and Harp of Christmas Hath a Darkness written specially for the occasion.

Continuing this innovation, the choir were privileged to give Gordon Langford's From Cornwall to Quebec its first airing at their 30th Anniversary Concert in March 2014.

The Winkleigh Singers continue to support charity events, in recent years taking part in “Voices for Hospices” and the Macmillan Cancer Relief “Celebration of Christmas” at Castle Hill, Filleigh.

From time to time the choir has vacancies. There is no audition, but a three week trial period needs to be completed for full membership. A good standard of sight-reading and tuning, a pleasant voice with the ability to blend, and a positive attitude towards creating high quality music is required. Rehearsals are extremely enjoyable, with a social break, and take place in Umberleigh on Monday evenings. If you are interested in joining us, please click here.

Roland Smith, founder of The Winkleigh Singers and the Choir's Musical Director, took up singing at the age of seven in the choir at Holy Trinity Church, Cookham-on-Thames, where he was joint head chorister before he took to the back row as a bass. In his more than twenty-five years at Cookham he took part in a number of first performances, recordings, radio and television broadcasts and sang in most of the cathedrals in the south of England. It was here that he had his first experiences of choir direction, regularly conducting the sung parts of services.

On moving to Devon in 1984 he put foward the idea of a Winkleigh based chamber choir, which became known as The Winkleigh Singers.

Singing activity in recent years has been with a number of distinguished choirs including Schola Aquae Sulis, The South West Cathedral Singers, Exeter Festival Chorus and Somerset Chamber Choir. He has sung in performances of Haydn Masses in Paris, Mozart’s Requiem in Salzburg and Britten’s War Requiem in Russia, and conducted The Winkleigh Singers on a number of tours in France and with Vox Hungarica at Matthias Templon in Budapest.

Roland has attended conducting workshops and masterclasses led by a number of leading choral directors, including Bob Chilcott and Jane Glover.

During an interregnum, he rehearsed and conducted Exeter Festival Chorus for performances at St James, Picadilly, (works by Ramirez) and Exeter Cathedral (off stage chorus in Holst’s The Planets with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra).

Roland currently sings bass in Somerset Chamber Choir and is also Musical Director of The Devonshire Company of Singers.


The Winkleigh Singers
The Winkleigh Singers