Choir of King's College, Cambridge
  Choir of King's College, Cambridge (courtesy of the Choir)

Internationally recognized as the preeminent representative of the great British church music tradition, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, owes its existence to King Henry VI who, in founding the college in 1441, envisaged the daily singing of services in his magnificent chapel (regarded as one of the jewels of Britain's cultural and architectural heritage). This remains the choir's raison d'etre, and is an important part of the lives of its 16 choristers, who are educated on generous scholarships at the College School, and the 14 choral scholars and two organ scholars, who study a variety of subjects in the College itself.

Today's choir derives its worldwide fame and reputation from the annual broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is heard on radio by millions all over the world, together with a television version of the service; from its many recordings from EMI and Decca and from its international touring program. The choir currently records exclusively for EMI, and tours widely, both in Europe and further afield. In 1996 the choir undertook an extensive concert tour of South Africa and also performed in Denmark as part of Copenhagen's European City of Culture celebrations. In 1997 the choir made a return to USA and Canada, visiting Barbados en route, and in 1998 they visited Hong Kong and Australia, giving nine concerts to capacity audiences. The choir often performs in London, too, and made its debut at the BBC Proms in 1993. In December 1998 it appeared with the Philharmonia at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall and gave a seasonal recital at the Temple Church. The new millennium began with a series of concerts in Bermuda.

The choir has worked with many distinguished soloists and has enjoyed a long association with orchestras such as the Philharmonia and the English Chamber Orchestra, both in concert hall and recordings. A partnership with the period instrument orchestra, The Brandenburg Consort, resulted in CDs of Messiah, and Bach's St. Matthew and St John Passions, and in 2000 a double CD of Bach in which the Choir is accompanied by the Academy of Ancient Music. Other recent recordings include a disc of Stanford, and Ikos, an album of works by Gorecki, Part and Tavener, and Gregorian chant, both on the EMI label. Ikos was followed by Credo, a sequence of music by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Penderecki, and Panufnik, with plainsong interludes. An album of music by John Rutter, including the well-known Requiem, rose to the top of the British Classical charts immediately upon its release in March 1998. Recently released is The King's Collection (a collection of popular anthems), and, to great acclaim, Rachmaninov's Vespers. This November a special recording of the 1998 television Carol service was released. Recent work for the BBC has included a concert of music from the Eton Choir Book which was recorded at the York Early Music Festival.

Contemporary music is also an important part of the Choir's repertoire, and the College has a program of commissioning works from some of the foremost composers working today; those commissioned have included Thomas Ades, Richard Rodney Bennett, Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, John Casken, Peter Maxwell Davies, Stephen Dodgson, Alexander Goehr, Jonathan Harvey, James MacMillan, Nicholas Maw, Arvo Part, Stephen Paulus, John Rutter, Peter Sculthorpe, John Tavener and Judith Weir. Richard Rodney Bennett composed On Christmas Day to my heart for the 1999 carol service.

Stephen Cleobury is always pleased to hear from potential members of the Choir.Those interested are invited to contact him on telephone 01223 331 224, fax 01223 331 890 or email: choir@kings.cam.ac.uk

King's College Chapel

More from King's College

History of the service, from the King's College site

Visit the King's College Chapel website to view this year's Order of Service as well as information about the Chapel and the Choir. Also find out more about the Chapel Foundation and how to become a supporter. The Chapel Foundation, established in 1997, raises funds to preserve King's College's international heritage and secure its future.

King's College Chapel Architectural Details

360-degree Panoramic views inside King's College Chapel

Music - the gift of the season - give today


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