Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge

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The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge is a mixed choir whose primary function is to sing choral services in the Tudor chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. The choir has taken various forms since its foundation, and has existed in its present form since 1982 when, shortly after the admission of females to the college, female voices were used for the first time for the choir’s top lines.

Three regular services are sung per week in full University Term, and the choir sings Latin grace from the minstrels' gallery in the college’s Great Hall at a number of feasts.

In addition, the choir undertakes projects outside term-time such as recordings, concerts, radio broadcasts and tours.

The choir typically numbers between 25 and 35 members, most of whom are students in Trinity College.

In January 2011, Gramophone named the choir the fifth best choir in the world.[1]

Directors of Music

The director of music is Stephen Layton, who succeeded Richard Marlow in September 2006. By statute, the Director of Music is also a Category A fellow of the college.

History of the Choir

Trinity College's choral associations date back to the establishment of King's Hall by Edward II in 1317 (Chaucer's "Solar Hall" in The Canterbury Tales). This College, incorporated by Edward III in 1337, was amalgamated with an adjacent early 14th century foundation, Michaelhouse, when Henry VIII created Trinity in 1546. From the time of Edward II, Chapel Royal choristers, on leaving the Court, customarily entered King's Hall to continue their academic studies, alongside other undergraduates training for service in the royal administration.

The constitution of the medieval chapel choir remains obscure, but the choral foundation which Mary Tudor established in 1553 (ten choristers, six lay clerks, four priests, an organist, and a schoolmaster) survived essentially unchanged for over 300 years. Among the musicians associated with the choir during this time were the Tudor composers Thomas Preston, Robert White and John Hilton the elder; Robert Ramsey was organist just before the English Commonwealth;[citation needed] the lutenist and writer Thomas Mace was a lay clerk for around 70 years from 1635;[2] and Thomas Attwood Walmisley was organist in the early 19th century.

At the turn of the 20th century, shortly after Ralph Vaughan Williams had graduated from Trinity and Alan Gray had succeeded Charles Villiers Stanford as Organist, the College choir school was closed down. Thereafter, a choir of boy trebles (holding scholarships at a local grammar school), lay clerks (some of whom shared their duties with the choirs of King's and St John's Colleges) and students continued the regular pattern of choral services until the 1950s. This traditionally-constituted body then gave way to a choir of undergraduate tenors and basses during Raymond Leppard's tenure as Director of Music, to be replaced with a mixed choir by Richard Marlow in 1982.

Tours and Concerts

The choir has toured to destinations such as Germany, France, Spain, the United States and Canada, the Canary Islands, India, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Peru, and Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Particularly notable events include singing mass at the installation of Abbot Martin Werlen, O.S.B. as Abbot of Einsiedeln, Switzerland, and becoming the first western choir to tour India.

The choir also performs concerts in the UK, at home in Cambridge and in London (South Bank Centre, St John's Smith Square, Spitalfields Festival), and around the country. Regular ‘livings tours’ allow the choir to visit parishes around the country of which the college is patron and sing services and concerts; these include villages in the Isle of Wight, North Yorkshire, County Durham, Norfolk and the Lake District.

May Week

On the final Sunday of the academic year the Choir performs two outdoor concerts. At midday the choir sings antiphonally from two of the towers in the college's Great Court, with a brass ensemble performing from the third. In the evening the choir inaugurates May Week with the traditional River Concert, in which the madrigals and part-songs are performed upon punts moored at Trinity Backs. The evening's entertainment concludes, as dusk gives way to darkness, with Wilbye's madrigal Draw on, sweet night performed as the choir is punted down the river and out of sight.


CDs recorded under Stephen Layton:

Handel - Chandos Anthems (2009; Hyperion)

Lukaszewski - Choral Music (2008; Hyperion)

Handel - Dettingen Te Deum (2008; Hyperion)

Trinity College Choir recorded and released some 30 CDs under Richard Marlow on Conifer, Hyperion, GMN and Chandos:

Byrd - Cantiones sacrae (2007; Chandos)

Mendelssohn - Sacred Choral Works (2006; Chandos)

Duruflé - Complete Choral Works (2005; Chandos)

Palestrina - Offertoria (2002; GMN)

A Trinity Christmas (2001; GMN)

Hymns and Descants (2000; GMN)

Sweelinck: Cantiones Sacrae, Vol.1 (1999; Hyperion)

Sweelinck: Cantiones Sacrae, Vol.2 (1999; Hyperion)

Descants from Trinity (1997; Conifer)

Choral Moods (1997; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1997; Conifer)

Bach Family Motets (1997; Conifer)

Britten - Sacred and Profane (1996)

The Songs of Angels (1996; Conifer)

Gibbons - Hosanna to the Son of David (1995; Conifer)

Praetorius - In dulci jubilo (1995; Conifer)

Lassus - Regina coeli and Seasonal Motets (1994; Conifer)

Bach: The Six Motets (1994; Conifer)

Sweelinck: Pseaumes De David (1994; Conifer)

Weelkes/Tomkins - When David Heard (1994; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1993; Conifer)

A Child Is Born (1993; Classics)

Miserere and Other Popular Choral Works (1993; Classics)

Great Is The Lord (1993; Conifer)

Michael Haydn: Masses and Vespers (1993; Classics)

Monteverdi - Motets (1992; Classics)

Monteverdi: Dixit Dominus (1992; Conifer)

Schütz: Psalmen Davids (1991; Conifer)

Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories/Lamentations (1991; Conifer)

Brahms: Complete Motets (1990; Classics)

French Sacred Choral Works (1990; Classics)

Glorious Trinity (1990; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1990; Conifer)

Walton: Sacred Choral Music (1989; Conifer)

Poulenc - Sacred Choral Works (1988; Conifer)

Voce: An Intimate Expression of Faith Offered By the Human Voice (1994; Brentwood Music, a compilation)

Plus one recording without a year:

Purcell: Anthems for the Chapel Royal (Conifer)

Directors of Music of the College


In 2004 the Trinity College Choir Association ("TCCA") was formed by a small group of ex-choral scholars. It provides a framework for all current and past members of the choir, organists and clergy to keep in touch, meet up and make new acquaintances, and to keep abreast of the current activities of the choir. It also comprises a body of people to help and support the interests and the future of the choir.


  2. Holman, Peter (2010). Life After Death: The Viola Da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-84383-574-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>