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Choir of King's College, Cambridge


Internationally recognised as the pre-eminent 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’être, and is an important part of the lives of its sixteen choristers, who are educated on generous scholarships at the College School, and the fourteen 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 for EMI and Decca, and from its international touring programme. The Choir currently records exclusively for EMI, and tours widely, both in Europe and further afield. In recent seasons the Choir has toured to the USA and Canada, South Africa, Australia and also made a world tour including concerts in Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA. Concerts have also been given in Copenhagen's European City of Culture celebrations, France, Barbados, Bermuda, Athens and Holland. Future touring plans include a tour to Germany this summer and a concert at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam next season.

The Choir also performs in London, appearing regularly in all the major halls. This season they will perform in a Christmas programme at The Royal Albert Hall and appear at the Spitalfields Festival. They also continue their own series of concerts at St. John’s, Smith Square and in January, they appear with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur in a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion at The Royal Festival Hall. Performances outside London include a concert at the Brighton Dome, Birmingham Symphony Hall and a return to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, following their success there last season with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

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 the concert hall and in 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. The choir now records exclusively for EMI and recent discs have included Handel’s Coronation Anthems, Bach’s Magnificat with the Academy of Ancient Music, Rachmaninov’sVespers, a collection of popular hymns with brass ensemble and a live recording of the annual A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. A new DVD of Anthems from King’s has just been released and follows last season’s DVD of the BBC TV Christmas broadcast which includes historic footage of the choir with Boris Ord. The Choir’s latest disc is a recording of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Dixit Dominus and Magnificat, again with AAM.

Contemporary music is also an important part of the Choir’s repertoire, and the College has a programme of commissioning works from some of the foremost composers working today; Robin Holloway has been commissioned for this year’s carol service and John Woolrich wrote Spring in Winter for the carol service in 2001.

Others recently commissioned have included Thomas Adès, Richard Rodney Bennett, Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, John Casken, Peter Maxwell Davies, Stephen Dodgson, Jonathan Dove, Alexander Goehr, Jonathan Harvey, James MacMillan, Nicholas Maw, Arvo Pärt, Stephen Paulus, John Rutter, Peter Sculthorpe, John Tavener, Jan Peter Wagemanns and Judith Weir.

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 or email:

November 2002/623 words

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