Saffron Walden's Choral Society since 1883
Patron: John Rutter | Music Director: Janet Wheeler

Musical Director


Janet Wheeler is a freelance composer, choral conductor and teacher. 

She read music at Cambridge and then followed a career in secondary education, afterwards becoming a music producer for BBC Schools Radio primary music for eight years. 

She has been Musical Director of SWCS for thirty years and has constantly relished the opportunity to inspire and develop the choir in an ever-changing choral world. She is now nearing the end of her time with the choir, having decided to shift the balance of her work in the future towards more composition.  

During her long tenure with SWCS, Janet has directed them in a vast amount of repertoire from small works to large choral and orchestral repertoire. Highlights from recent years have included The Dream of Gerontius at the Thaxted Festival, and at Saffron Hall Bach's St Matthew Passion, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony and Jonathan Dove’s There Was a Child. 

Janet is increasingly in demand as a composer, writing principally choral music, both small and large-scale. Many of her large-scale works have been composed for SWCS, beginning with Sea Tongue in 2004 and including Train in the Rain in 2005, On the Breath of the Sky in 2007, Maze in 2012 for the Cultural Olympiad, and in 2016 The Ceaseless Round of Circling Planets premiered at Thaxted Festival. Her last concert as SWCS’s MD includes the premiere of her latest commission for the choir: The Measure of a Tree.  

Elsewhere, recent performance of her music have been given by ORA Chamber Choir, (for whom she has also mentored young composers) SONORO, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and numerous cathedral and college choirs in the UK and further afield. She has won multiple composition competitions and is working on numerous commissions at present. More information about her compositions can be found at 

Janet also conducts the chamber choir Granta Chorale which she founded in 2007 and she very much enjoys working with young singers and players both in local schools and when they come together for the choir’s annual Spirit of Christmas concerts. 

"...the choir responded magnificently to the demands of the conductor. Janet Wheeler is to be congratulated on guiding the ship through stormy and calm waters with such serene authority." 

Richard Latham on the SWCS performance of Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony