English Arts Chorale

About EAC

The English Arts Chorale is an ambitious, auditioned choir of some 60 members based in Reigate, Surrey.

Founded by its conductor, Leslie Olive, in 1980, the EAC has broadcast for BBC radio, sung at the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican, and worked with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under conductors including Klaus Tennstedt and Sir Roger Norrington.

Its soloists have included a galaxy of highly-regarded names including Sir Willard White, Susan Gritton, Sheila Armstrong, Ian Bostridge and James Gilchrist. The choir has also sung Messiah in a muddy field (at the Greenbelt Festival), Carmina Burana in a public park (at Reigate Summer Music Festival), and all three Elgar oratorios (The Apostles, The Kingdom, and The Dream of Gerontius) in the same week.

It has sung Vaughan Williams' Pilgrim's Progress in Dorking and A Sea Symphony at Snape Maltings and The Dream of Gerontius in the spectacular Smetana Hall in Prague. It has been coached by Jeremy Jackman, Robert Dean and its president Brian Kay.

It has raised thousands of pounds for charity, and ran one of the first choral training programmes for adult beginners, introducing hundreds to choral singing.

The English Arts Chorale frequently performs major works entirely from memory, creating performances of immense energy and focus.

English Arts Orchestra

Outstanding orchestral playing by the English Arts Orchestra complements the distinctive English Arts Chorale sound. Audiences talk of "fresh performances from a young orchestra," "orchestra first rate", and "orchestra were fabulous!" One particularly telling comment said "I would have been pleased to hear this performance in any of the major London concert halls."

English Arts Chorale concerts appeal to a wide range of musical tastes, with major concertos rubbing shoulders with Russian folk music, and unaccompanied short works by living composers alongside the major choral-orchestral repertoire such as the Verdi Requiem. Concert venues include London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Snape Maltings, major cathedrals and European touring. Soloists include distinguished and well-known names as well as some of the most exciting young artists of the next generation.

Founder & Conductor - Leslie Olive

Leslie Olive, founder and artistic director of The English Arts Chorale, The Music Trust, and Reigate Summer Music Festival, is a choir trainer, conductor, composer, arranger, educator, and writer on music, as well as a powerful advocate for music.

Born in Wales, he grew up in Surrey, studying music at Reigate Grammar School. He studied music at Reading University and conducting at The Royal Academy of Music. As a young teacher he founded and directed one of Kent's most successful youth choirs. Director of Music at Reigate Parish Church from 1980, he was later invited by the BBC to become the first music director of Radio 4's new-style Daily Service, where he directed numerous broadcasts. In 1993, he created Reigate Summer Music - a fortnight's festival of over 50 events which ranged from an outdoor firework spectacular with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to a seminar day on the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, from which the scholarly papers were subsequently compiled into a published book.

Leslie Olive's work with the English Arts Chorale has taken him as conductor to major venues across the country, cathedrals and concert halls alike. He has conducted the English Arts Chorale with the Philharmonia Orchestra, London Mozart Players, the English Chamber Orchestra, and many of the most famous solo artists of the day including Jack Brymer, Robert Cohen, Benjamin Luxon, Sheila Armstrong, Willard White, Bonaventura Bottone, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Ian Bostridge and Susan Gritton.

At his heart is a passionate desire to share music...

At his heart is a passionate desire to share music with the whole world. For over twenty-five years he has pursued that vision, through the English Arts Chorale and Reigate Summer Music, and also by work with children and senior citizens. He pioneered the Inroad choral courses for beginners, which have introduced hundreds to choral singing. In 2012 he launched the fully professional Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra, which has won acclaim for the quality of its performances, with his performance of Vaughan Williams's London Symphony described by one Vaughan Williams enthusiast as "one of the very finest I have heard for many years."

Leslie Olive is also the conductor of  Eye Bach Choir in Suffolk, Chorusmaster of Suffolk Opera, and was until 2012 Director of Music at Colchester Royal Grammar School, where he founded and directed a boys' choir of 80 young voices.

A qualified Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster, he is usually hankering after the movement of the deck under his feet when not actually making music.


To read more about Leslie's musical activities, visit his website by clicking here   




Our President - Brian Kay

Brian Kay is a well-known figure in the world of choral singing. He was a founder member of The King’s Singers, and since then has had an illustrious career in broadcasting, as listeners to Radio 2, 3 and 4 will know well.

His television appearances have included the competitions to find the Cardiff Singer of the World and the Choir of the Year, and the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna. He has twice won a Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year, including the coveted Gold Award in 1996.

Brian was also conductor of Vaughan Williams’s Leith Hill Musical Festival  for 21 years and is currently the Principal Conductor of The Really Big Chorus, with which he regularly conducts massed voices in venues ranging from London’s Royal Albert Hall to the exotic surroundings of Beijing.

In addition he is Vice-President of the Association of British Choral Directors and the Royal School of Church Music.

Brian is the conductor of the Burford Singers, based near his home in the Cotswolds, with whom we collaborated in 2018 in two performances of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, in Winchester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey.


Our Accompanist - Jonathan Lilley

Jonathan Lilley, accompanist to the EAC, the auditioned choir based in Reigate Surrey

A performing musician since chorister days at parish church and cathedral in Salisbury, Jonathan Lilley trained at the Royal Academy of Music, and whilst still a first-year undergraduate held the organ scholarship at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and passed the notorious exam for Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.  His first permanent appointment was as Sub-Organist of Leeds Parish Church (now Leeds Minster) with its famous musical tradition going back to Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s time as Organist.  He served also as choral director, repetiteur and piano accompanist at Leeds College of Music, and accompanied several choirs including the famous Halifax Choral Society. 

Jonathan later moved to Ely Cathedral as full-time Assistant Organist, accompanying and helping to train and run the cathedral choir of boys and men.  He accompanied the choir on BBC broadcasts, on CD and on overseas tours as well as in the course of daily worship, played recitals and a concerto in the cathedral, accompanied choirs and instrumentalists at King’s School, Ely, accompanied Ely Choral Society and Ely Consort from time to time – and did all those things on piano as well as organ.  He performed Poulenc’s organ concerto with City of London Sinfonia live on BBC Radio 3, and occasionally entertained the cathedral community with improvised accompaniments to classic silent films.

Since September 2013 Jonathan has been Director of Music at Waltham Abbey, Essex, where he leads the mixed adult choir and a flourishing children’s choir known as the Choristers.  Having London on the doorstep he is in demand for all manner of keyboard accompaniment work, and is accompanist to the Waltham Singers of Chelmsford as he was to the English Baroque Choir until joining EAC in 2020.

Emeritus Accompanist - Ian le Grice

Ian le Grice, sometime accompanist to the EAC, the audtioned choir in Reigate Surrey

Ian le Grice retired as the EAC's accompanist in the summer of 2017, after more than seventeen years, an occasion marked by a farewell concert in St Mary's Church, Reigate.

Ian’s career has embraced all aspects of organ playing: concerto performances, solo recitals, recitals with singers and instrumentalists, continuo playing, orchestral work, and the accompaniment of church services. He is Organist of Reigate St Mary’s Choir School, and accompanist to the St Cecilia Chorus and Croydon Philharmonic Choir, of which he is also a Vice President. He has recently retired from the Temple Church where he was Assistant Organist for thirty years.

His long association with the Temple Church began when he joined the choir as a treble in 1957. He went on to assist Sir George Thalben-Ball, playing the organ for recordings, broadcasts, concerts and services with the Temple Church Choir until 1982 when Dr John Birch succeeded Sir George and Ian le Grice was appointed Assistant Organist. He continued in this position with the two succeeding Directors of Music, Stephen Layton and James Vivian, and in 2003 played for the premiere of Sir John Tavener’s seven-hour long work, 'The Veil of the Temple', under the direction of Stephen Layton.

Ian le Grice continues to be in demand as a soloist and accompanist, and since 2005 has collaborated with Crispian Steele-Perkins to present informal recitals of music for trumpet and organ.