In Memoriam: Colin Touchin
In his worldwide career as a sought-after conductor, composer, clarinettist, recorder player, jury member and radio presenter, Colin Touchin combined the entire spectrum of musical activities in one person. Brought up in a musical family in Manchester, Colin took his degree in music at Keble College, Oxford. He taught clarinet and recorder, and later took a position at the esteemed Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where he taught for eight years.
In 1989, he became Director of Music at the University of Warwick, where he worked for fourteen years. He conducted the award-winning Warwick Chamber Choir and the National Youth Wind Ensembles of Great Britain, Luxembourg and Hong Kong, and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble which gained Gold at the National Concert Band Festival.
After leaving the University of Warwick, his national and international work expanded. He established his own ensembles including our own Spires Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus which he founded in 2005 in an unusual structure that brought together amateur instrumentalists and singers to put on new and demanding concerts with the support of professional musicians. In 2014 he became principal conductor of the Lufthansa Orchestra based in Frankfurt, to add to his international travels.
Most recently, Colin and Alicia lived in Warsaw and in Hong Kong, where Colin worked as musical art director of the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir, and as acclaimed guest conductor for the Tak-Ming Philharmonic Winds and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. He had a permanent spot on local radio RTHK's weekly show "In Touch with Music".
He taught, conducted, examined and gave workshops for students and teachers in 22 countries in the last ten years, and was constantly in demand. His successful compositions and arrangements were also broadcast on the BBC (among others).
The affection and respect in which he was held internationally, and his continued delight and excitement in making music, were all recognised and enjoyed by those who were fortunate enough to work with him. The news of his illness was alarming but, somehow, we expected his energy and positivity to see him through. It was not to be. That his Facebook page received over a thousand mourning notes as well as the national and international turn-out for his commemorative service last November at Holy Trinity Church in Coventry, his favourite church, were all indicators of how much he will continue to be missed.
Jack has been Chorus Director and Conductor of Spires Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus since 2015, and he is now our Music Director. He is a prolific conductor who leads orchestras, choirs and opera companies across the Midlands, the North and Wales. In addition to his position here at Spires, he is Music Director at Stafford Sinfonia, Opera Ddraig in Cardiff, Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra, and Assistant Conductor with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Jack studied Music at the University of Birmingham and went on to study conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He was Assistant Conductor for an award-winning production of Britten’s Paul Bunyan with WNO Youth Opera in 2013; Assistant Conductor of the Royal Opera House’s production of The Firework Makers Daughter in December 2015; and Music Director of Handel’s Acis and Galatea by Taunton Festival Opera, with world-renowned bass-baritone Donald Maxwell.
In addition to his busy schedule of rehearsals and concerts, Jack was appointed as an Assistant Conductor with the CBSO for their 2022-23 seasons. He is currently tutored by Michael Seal (Associate Conductor of the CBSO). When not conducting, Jack is also the Librarian at the CBSO and is a freelance concert piano tuner and technician.
His work with Spires Music has been wide-ranging and varied. The orchestra continues to extend its performances, and instrumentalists travel from distant places to join Jack for Spires’ Orchestral Play days as well as our formal concerts. Alongside well-known works such as Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mozart’s Grande Messe and Faure’s Requiem, Jack has introduced demanding and exciting programmes: an illustrated lecture Exploring Handel, which examined Handel’s brazen stealing of other composers’ music; George Shearing’s settings of Shakespeare’s Songs and Sonnets; Advent music from Bach, Praetorius, Handel’s Messiah, and Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit pour Noel alongside unfamiliar carols across the centuries; and now Dvořák’s 9th Symphony and Amy Beach’s Mass in E Flat. Instrumentalists and singers alike enjoy the demands Jack makes of them.
His most recent programmes have led us in a stirring performance of Haydn’s Creation but also into fascinating explorations of musical themes whose tantalising titles (The Changing Seasons; The Sun, the Moon and the Stars) enchant performers and the audience with the excitement of both familiar and unfamiliar music from the past and present.
After completing a degree in classical studies from the University of Liverpool, Alistair studied violin at the Birmingham Conservatoire, graduating in 1996.
He pursued a very busy freelance career, playing with a number of orchestras including Orchestra of the Swan, Orchestra da Camera, Chameleon Arts Orchestra, Moscow City Ballet Orchestra and the English Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with many top soloists including Nigel Kennedy, Peter Donohoe and Katherine Jenkins. He has also toured with Phantom of the Opera and has performed with a large number of 'pop' artists including Chris de Burgh, Leo Sayer, Victoria Beckham, Wizard, Procul Harum, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He has made numerous recordings for film and television, including the soundtrack to 'The Krypton Factor' for ITV.
Solo engagements have included both Beethoven Romances with the English Philharmonic Orchestra, The Lark Ascending with Spires Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Beethoven Triple Concerto. Alistair continues to play professionally, and is currently principal second violin with both Orchestra da Camera and the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. Along with leading the Spires Philharmonic Orchestra, Alistair is also associate leader of the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra, and leads the Oriflamme Ensemble.
Along with performing, Alistair has also pursued a very successful teaching career, becoming Head of Instrumental Studies at King Henry VIII School, Coventry, in 2008, having previously taught at a variety of schools, including Shrewsbury School, Solihull School, and Wrekin College where he was Head of Strings.