Nelson’s Costa Simpson is returning home to conduct the Chroma Chamber Choir. Photo: Supplied.

Young conductor brings baton to Nelson


At just 24-years-old, Nelson-born Costa Simpson is reaching for the high notes.

The young conductor is returning home to lead the Chroma Chamber Choir at the NCMA on 25 July.

Born in Waimea West, Costa attended Nelson College and is currently undertaking postgraduate study at the University of Auckland under the tutelage of internationally recognised choral conductor Dr Karen Grylls.

“It’s been an honour to study under Professor Grylls over the last four years. She is an inspiring and demanding teacher,” he says.

Earlier this year, Costa was the recipient of a fellowship in conducting with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, allowing him to travel to Wellington and work with the orchestra and its principal conductor-in-residence, Hamish McKeich.

He also directs the Auckland-based ensemble Orlando Singers and has engagements with the Saint Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra.

He also recently completed a two-year stint as organ scholar at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph under James Tibbles.

The upcoming NCMA concert features a cappella choral music based on the different times of day, from morning through night, spanning composers as diverse as the sixteenth-century Englishman Thomas Tallis, to contemporary composers Ola Gjeilo and Eric Whitacre.

“I’m particularly interested in the contrasting psychological and emotional effects the different times of day can have on us, and how that might have changed throughout time,” says Costa.

The concert was meant to take place in May but was cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Costa says choral music’s unique power to heal and comfort is well established, and he hopes that the “uplifting and reflective” programme will be a tonic for nerves frayed by the trials and stresses of the pandemic.

The first rehearsal in March was led by Costa, and since then they have been conducted by Nelson City councillor Pete Rainey.

Costa arrived in Nelson this week, with several intensive rehearsals planned.

He will be returning for a concert in October at the Nelson Cathedral, and, next year, he intends to travel overseas to audition for postgraduate programmes in conducting.

Costa says, while he expects to remain overseas during his early career, Nelson will always be his “spiritual home”.

“I hope to be able to live and work in the region at a later stage of my life, and to give back to the musical community that supported me so generously in my youth.”

The Chroma Chamber Choir performance is on Saturday, 25 July, 4pm at the NCMA auditorium. Tickets are available from the or the NCMA box office.