Simon began his musical life as a chorister at the age of 7. He studied the organ at Chichester Cathedral and the trumpet in London, moving to the University of Sheffield as an undergraduate, and to the RNCM for postgraduate study. As a research student at Sheffield, Simon continued directing many University Ensembles and Choirs as well as playing at the Cathedral and working with the Sheffield City Music Service.
A 25 year teaching career followed, culminating as Director of Music at the King’s School in Macclesfield; his school choirs regularly sang at cathedrals and made a number of CD’s. During this time he also continued to pursue professional organ playing and accompanying whilst conducting a number of choirs in Manchester, Stockport and Cheshire. He is a regular recitalist.
He became an ABRSM Examiner in 2002 and has worked across the UK and the Far East in this capacity. The Royal College of Organists appointed Simon as an Accredited Teacher in 2015, joining a select national team of 28 highly experienced and respected tutors.
Simon joined the staff at Junior RNCM in the early 1990’s teaching across the academic spectrum; he has been the Organ Tutor for over 20 years and there are currently seven JRNCM Organists, the greatest number in any of the Junior Conservatoires. Students have recently secured Organ Scholarships at St. John’s College, Christ’s College and Trinity Hall Cambridge and Hertford College Oxford; the current Organ Scholar at Blackburn Cathedral is also a pupil.
Simon became Director of the renowned JRNCM Vocal Ensemble in 2013 and has led them to great success in many performances including Mozart Vespere de Confessore, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and the Duruflé Requiem. Simon moved into freelancing in September 2014, immediately working with the RNCM Symphony Chorus for an acclaimed performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony to mark the reopening of the refurbished RNCM Concert Hall. He also prepared the chorus for the British Premier of Penderecki’s monumental 7th Symphony “Seven Gates of Jerusalem”, conducted by the composer in the Bridgewater Hall.
Simon was the Founding Director of the unique Hallé Choral Academy launched in September 2014. His passion, sympathetic and empathetic teaching style, great patience and experience, as well as a lively sense of humour continue to ensure great success and satisfaction for the members of all his choirs. For further information please visit his website at www.simonmercer.org.uk
James was born in Manchester in 1978 and grew up in Stockport where he still lives. Until recently, he was focussed on performing, with particular emphasis on piano accompaniment for both choirs and soloists. However; since his diagnosis of high-functioning autism (previously known as Asperger's Syndrome) in April 2015 he has decided to resurrect his love of creating music (he gained I00% for composing at GCSE level) and expand his repertoire. Having been involved with several choirs he felt it natural to contribute to the choral repertoire in particular: In their last concert Prestbury Choral Society performed the premiere of his work, A Shropshire Lad, to great acclaim. His influences are numerous, but his own favourite composers are Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Debussy and Vaughan-Williams. James is currently Assistant Musical Director for two choirs: Prestbury Choral Society and Marple Choral Society. He also sings with the William Byrd Singers and is their in-house pianist. He holds professional diplomas in Performance (piano and flute) and Music Theory, and is working towards a Master's qualification in composing (FLCM).