Choir of King's College, Cambridge

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The King's College Choir is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge, in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the choir to this day.[1]

Today the choir is directed by Stephen Cleobury and derives much of its fame from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast worldwide to millions on Christmas Eve every year, and the TV service Carols from King's which accompanies it. The choir commissions a carol from a contemporary composer for each year's Festival.

Membership of the Choir

The statutes of the College provide for sixteen choristers. These are boys who are educated at King's College School. From the beginning of the 20th century fourteen undergraduates have also sung in the choir as Choral Scholars.

Former members of the Choir (including Directors of Music and Organ Scholars) are able to join the King's College Choir Association.

Performing and recording activities

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge maintains a strong recording and touring schedule, in addition to its performances at King's College Chapel, in Cambridge. In recent years, the choir has toured throughout Europe, the US, South America, Australia and Asia. The choir regularly performs in the United Kingdom, giving concerts in the major London concert halls, as well as at numerous festivals around the country. In 2013, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge sang at the Prime Minister's Easter reception held at 10 Downing Street.

The choir also performs with symphony orchestras, such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms in 2005 and 2009, the London Symphony Orchestra, and performs an annual Christmas concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge has recorded more than 100 albums, on the EMI and Decca labels, and, in 2013, formed its own eponymous label. Releases on this label include Nine Lessons and Carols, with a selection of music from its Christmas Eve service, Mozart Requiem: Realisations, containing Mozart's Requiem, as well as full movements completed by other composers, and Britten's St Nicolas.[2]

The choir has also begun making available recordings of its choral services. These can be listened to from the choir's web site.[3]


The Choir often tours externally, usually involving longer tours in the summer and at Christmas, and shorter stays throughout the year.

Previous tours have included:

  • 1982 - Japan
  • 1983 - Australia and New Zealand
  • 1984 - Belgium, Netherlands, West Germany
  • 1985 - USA and Canada
  • 1986 - Finland, Germany (East & West)
  • 1987 - Japan
  • 1988 - Spain and USA
  • 1989 - Australia and New Zealand
  • 1990 - Italy, Switzerland, France
  • 1991 - USA
  • 1992 - France
  • 1993 - Netherlands and Australia
  • 1994 - Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Spain, France
  • 1995 - Bermuda, USA, Germany, Belgium, France, Netherlands
  • 1996 - Denmark and South Africa
  • 1997 - Barbados, USA and Canada
  • Summer 1998 - Hong Kong and Australia
  • January 2000 - Bermuda
  • April 2000 - France (Paris)
  • July–August 2000 - Far East (Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Tokyo) and the USA
  • June 2001 - Netherlands (Haarlem)
  • September 2001 - Belgium
  • December 2001 - France (Paris)
  • April 2001 - Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki)
  • July–August 2001 - Australia
  • Summer 2002 - Belgium
  • Summer 2003 - Germany
  • December 2003 - Netherlands
  • Summer 2004 - Hong Kong
  • December 2004 - USA
  • July 2005 - Germany
  • September 2005 - Italy (Turin) and Belgium
  • December 2005 - Switzerland, Netherlands
  • January 2006 - Italy (Genoa, Florence and Perugia)
  • May 2006 - Germany (Stuttgart)
  • September 2006 - Sweden (Gothenburg)
  • December 2006 - Far East (Korea and Singapore)
  • June 2007 - Turkey (Istanbul Festival)
  • August 2007 - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland
  • September 2007 - France (Ambronay) and Germany (Bonn)
  • December 2007 - Brazil (São Paulo)
  • April 2008 - USA (New York, Chicago, St Louis, Baltimore, Dallas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Westport CT, Ann Arbor MI)
  • September 2008 - Italy (Stresa Festival) and Belgium (Gent Festival)
  • November 2008 - Portugal (Porto)
  • December 2008 - Italy (Rome) and Netherlands (Amsterdam and Eindhoven)
  • July 2009 - Singapore, China (Hong Kong) and China/Taiwan (Taipei)
  • July 2011 - South Korea (Seoul) and China (Beijing and Shanghai)
  • July 2013 - South Korea (Seoul), China (Beijing and Hong Kong) and Singapore
  • Summer 2014 - Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide)
  • March 2015 - USA (New York, Washington DC, St. Paul, Chicago, Dallas)
  • July 2015 - Germany (Neustrelitz, Chorin, Magdeburg, Wiesbaden)
  • August 2015 - Iceland (Reykjavik) - choral scholars only


Recordings on the choir's own label, King's College, Cambridge, include:

  • 2015 - Evensong Live
  • 2015 - Hymn Anthems
  • 2014 - Favourite Carols from King's
  • 2014 - Fauré Requiem
  • 2013 - Britten: St Nicolas (with the Britten Sinfonia)
  • 2013 - Mozart Requiem: Realisations (with the Academy of Ancient Music)
  • 2012 - Nine Lessons and Carols

Recordings under the [EMI Classics] label include:

Directors of Music

The Choir is conducted by the Director of Music, a Fellow of the College.

Choral Scholars

The fourteen Choral Scholars are male students (usually Undergraduates) at the College. Choral Scholars must succeed at both the general entry requirements of the College as well as the Choral Trials to join the Choir.[4]

Two of the Choral Scholars are assigned the role of Beater, as Senior and Junior Beater (traditionally the Senior Choral Scholar and his pre-chosen successor); these two are also usually responsible for the direction of Collegium Regale. These two Choral Scholars usually 'beat' (conduct while in the stalls) the psalms, and often the introit, during the service, even when the Director of Music is present.

Very occasionally, a Lay Clerk may be appointed in place of a Choral Scholar, usually if a vacancy arises unexpectedly: for example, when a student, having gained a conditional place at the college (subject to A-level grades being achieved) fails to meet the conditions. Such Lay Clerks have, to all intents and purposes, the same status as a Choral Scholar. The few Lay Clerks that have existed (since the establishment of Choral Scholars) have often been Choral Scholars agreeing to remain for an additional year.

The Choral Scholars form collectively, in their spare time, a separate group, The King's Men, singing a wide range of music written for men's voices, from early music through to barbershop arrangements (many of the latter having been written exclusively for the group by present/former Choral Scholars).

Groups spawned from the Choral Scholars

Various singing groups have been spawned from groups of Choral Scholars:

  • The King's Men, formerly known as Collegium Regale, made up of the current Choral Scholars
  • The King's Singers (1968–present)
  • The Scholars (1968-2010) and The Scholars Baroque Ensemble
  • Pange Lingua, directed by Berty Rice (1990s)
  • Polyphony (1986–present)

Notable former members

Organ Scholars

The organ is played by two Organ Scholars, who, like the Choral Scholars, are students (typically undergraduates) at the College. An Organ Scholarship is awarded as necessary to ensure that there are always two undergraduate Organists in the College - a new Scholar is appointed to arrive when the previous one graduates.

If the Director of Music is not present for any reason, an Organ Scholar takes responsibility for conducting the Choir.

Great Court of King's College


External links