Collegium Singers started life in 1992 as Taunton Camerata, a chamber choir off-shoot of Taunton Choral Society under the direction of John Cole. There were performances in Taunton, Wellington and Illminster with quite a "mainstream" repertoire. 1994 saw guest conductor appearances by Stuart Bell and Stephen Stunnell followed by Hugh Potton who oversaw concert trips further afield, to Bridgwater, Curry Rivel, Langport, Forde Abbey and Milverton. In 1996, musical direction was taken over by another director who continued the travels of the group to Ilminster, Sherbourne Abbey, Great Torrington and Whitelackington directing a mainly Renaissance and Baroque repertoire.
After this succession of different musical directors, Paul Ellis took the reins.
Paul looked after the group between 1998 and 2007. Under his direction, the choir performed a diverse repertoire from renaissance to 20th century and also presented a number of concerts with instrumental accompaniment, such as Bach's Magnificat in St Mary’s Taunton in 2001 with a Baroque instrumental band and a Great Venetian spectacular in 2007 with 8 brass players and organ.
The next long tenure started in 2008, when Peter Leech started as Musical director and led the group for 9 years.
Shortly after Peter started, the choir was renamed as Collegium Singers. The group benefited from his extensive knowledge of repertoire from the Baroque period, and the choir frequently performed pieces from relatively unknown composers that had either not been published or had contemporary performances such as Homilius, Padilla, Coelho, Dias Meghas and many others. The group also continued to intermittently perform with instrumentalists, and groups such as the Frideswide Ensemble, Capelle Fede, and the Rose Consort of Viols.
In 2017, the choir appointed the young Welsh organist and conductor Tomos (Twm) Watkins as MD who had recently graduated from the Cardiff post graduate choral conducting course.
Twm brought a fresh and modern flavour to the choir and over the next 2 years created some innovative thematic programmes that featured a number of contemporary composers, such as Roth, Chilcott, Macmillan, and Dove. These were interspersed by some more familiar and favourite repertoire, such as Bach and Brahms.
Twm left the choir in 2019 to continue his academic studies and the choir then had two guest conductors, putting on two very distinctive concerts, "Oh What Evil is War", a baroque feast led by the celebrated early musician Gawain Glenton in Autumn 2019, and "Madrigalian Madness", led by the New Zealand baritone and conductor William McElwee in March 2020.
Elinor Cooper joined as our new music director just as the Covid Pandemic struck in April 2020 and directed her first concert with us in November 2021. She has been taking the group to new levels of vocal technique and continues our exploration of a diverse repertoire to take the choir from strength to strength.
The membership of the choir has been constantly changing since 1992, but we still have one founding member singing with us, our soprano Catherine Bass!