Christopher Bell, Artistic Director
Artistic Director Christopher Bell was educated at Edinburgh University and held his first post as Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Since then, he has worked as conductor with many of the major orchestras in the UK and Ireland, including the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, Scottish Chamber, City of London Sinfonia London Concert, RTE National Symphony, RTE Concert and the Bournemouth Symphony. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the State Orchestra of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia from 1998–2000, Chorus Master of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra between 1989 and 2002 and was the first Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union.
In 1988 he made his debut with the Ulster Orchestra in performances of Handel’s Messiah and since then has appeared regularly with them conducting concerts all over Northern Ireland from Coleraine and Derry to Armagh, Omagh and Eniskillen. In 2009 he was appointed the Ulster Orchestra’s first Associate Conductor, a post he held until 2018. Elsewhere, Christopher annually conducts choral and orchestral performances at the Chicago Grant Park Music Festival, where he has been Chorus Director since 2002. During his tenure he and the chorus have been recipients of the coveted Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence given by Chorus America as well as glowing reviews from both critics and audiences alike. “It’s as if he has some magic dust he sprinkles on his singers that gives them this incredible precision.” – Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times.
He was until recently also the Chorus Master of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, preparing them annually for up to six concerts in August with visiting national and international orchestras and conductors. Largely responsible for the formation of the National Youth Choir of Scotland in 1996, he has been its Artistic Director ever since, performing at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh International Festival, touring internationally, recording and broadcasting. He was Director of the RSNO Junior Chorus for 22 seasons, finishing in 2017.
With professional choruses, in addition to his many concerts and recordings with the Grant Park Chorus over 12 years, his work includes concerts and recordings with Opera Australia Chorus (Melbourne), preparation of many concerts with the Netherlands Radio Choir, his debut with the RTVE Choir in Madrid in September 2012 and most recently a performance of Haydn’s Creation with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir in 2014. In 2019 he will work with Chamber Choir Ireland conducting the premiere of “An Island Sings” by Elaine Agnew as well as works by Bruckner and MacMillan
Christopher Bell is well-known for his abilities working with young musicians. Before his current posts with the RSNO Junior Chorus and the National Youth Choir of Scotland, he was the founding conductor of the Ulster Youth Choir and director of the TOTAL Aberdeen Youth Choir for six years. Between 2001 and 2008 he was Artistic Director of the highly successful Children’s Classic Concert series.
In 2001 Dr. Bell received a Scotsman of the Year Award for Creative Talent in appreciation for his work with singers, particularly his encouragement of young singers in Scotland. In 2003 he was awarded the Sir Charles Grove Prize for his contribution to cultural life in Scotland and throughout the U.K.
In May 2009 Christopher Bell received an honorary Master’s degree from the Open University for Services to the Arts. In November 2012 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music (h.c.) from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for services to singing in Scotland.
"Bell, Grant Park Chorus deliver a remarkable evening of Rachmaninoff"
—Chicago Classical Review
"Superb soloists and chorus highlight Martin rarity at Grant Park Music Festival"
—Chicago Classical Review
"Fiddle virtuoso, choral rarity lend cachet to Ravinia, Grant Park shows"