Christopher Bell

Biography by James Manheim

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Associated with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Bell has also conducted choirs in the U.S. and other countries.
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Artist Biography by James Manheim

Conductor Christopher Bell was a co-founder of the National Youth Choir of Scotland and has long been associated with that group. He has also conducted several highly visible American choirs as well as choirs in the Netherlands, Australia, and Finland, and he has been active as an orchestral conductor.

Bell was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Edinburgh University in Scotland and served as chorus master and later artistic director of the Royal Edinburgh Choral Union from 1987 to 1990. From there, he moved to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, serving as chorus master between 1989 and 2002. Bell made his conducting debut in 1988 in a performance of Handel's Messiah, HWV 56, with the Ulster Orchestra. He was the associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra between 1989 and 1991, and he has since worked with orchestras across the UK and Ireland. However, he is best known as a choral conductor, with a special emphasis on working with young singers. For 22 years, ending in 2017, he was the director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and served as chorus master of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. One of Bell's most distinctive collaborations has been with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, for whose formation in 1996 he was largely responsible. He has recorded with that group and taken it on tour to several European countries, and through the large NYCOS choral infrastructure he supervised, he seems ready to influence generations of Scottish singers. Bell was the chorus master of the Belfast Philharmonic Choir from 2005 to 2011. He has also been active and successful in the U.S., serving as the chorus director of the outdoor Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, conducting concerts there annually since 2002. He has prepared many concerts with the Netherlands Radio Choir and has led concerts and recordings with the Opera Australia Choir, and in 2014, he led a performance of Haydn’s Creation with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

Bell's discography is similarly varied. He has recorded for the Cedille label with the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, as well as for Linn and Signum Classics. On the latter label, with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, he released the album Cantos Sagrados in 2020, featuring the title work by composer James MacMillan. Bell has received several awards, including Scotsman of the Year for Creative Talent in 2001, the Sir Charles Grove Prize in 2003, and several honorary degrees.