English Boy Choir Costumes: Individual University Choirs

Figure 1.--The boys completely in red robes here belong to the Jesus College Chapel Choir. The boys in the background that can barely be seen belong to the King's College Choir, another Cambridge boy choir.

Some major British choirs are located at universities. Of course the detinction here with the cathedrals is somewhat arbitrary as European universities were largely founded by the Church and run by Church scholars. England's historic universities were all founded by the Catholic Church and after the Rformation taken over by the Church of England. There are now in Engliand secular universities, but it is only the historic universities that have university choirs. Thus there were and continue to be close ties between many universities and the Church. The two principal universities are organized into colleges and it is these colleges that spnsor choirs. We do note Catholic choirs, such as the one at Langbury College. We believe these colleges and choirs are of more recent formation, but do not yet have full historical details. Hopefully our British readers will provide more of the historical background.

Jesus College, Cambridge (Cambridgeshire)

Jesus College at Cambridge University has a rich tradition of religious choral music. Jesus College maintains two choirs. The Chapel Choir was founded in 1849 and is made up of boy choristers that live with their parents in Cambridge. The boys sing with adults from both the University and city at large. The Mixed Choir of men and women was formed more recently in 1980. The Mixed Choir gives female undergraduates the opportunity to celebrate Chapel services through song. The musical make up of counter-tenors, tenors and basses are the same for both the Mixed Choir and the Chapel Choir. The Chapel Choir is one of three College choirs of its kind in Cambridge, the other two are Kings' ans St. John's. Jesus College differs from the other two because they recruit boys from local schools rather than operating a school from which the chor is drawn. The Chapel Choir sing two of the four choral evensongs per week as well as Eucharists. The Chapel Choir makes trips each year. The Choir in 2002 performed in Paris and other U.K. locations, including Edinburgh, Scotland. They also participate in joint appearances with the other Cambridge choirs. The Choir has made some beautiful recordings which are available. The Chapel Mixed Choir sings two choral evensongs per week and regularly performs at college feasts, concerts and additional services. The two choirs on occasions join for combined performances. The combined choirs have performed Bach's St. John Passion (March 2000, with the Hanover Band and John-Mark Ainsley) and St Matthew Passion (March 2002, with the Britten Sinfonia and James Gilchrist in Ely Cathedral). Since September 2001, the choirs have broadcast on BBC Radio 2 and 3.

King's College, Cambridge (Cambridgeshire)

King Henry VI founded King's College in 1441 and looked forward to the daily singing of services in the Chapel. The construction of King's College Chapel, one of the most important church buildings in England, took over 100 years, but was finally completed in 1547. The Choir's purpose is to sing daily services. There are 16 choristers (14choral scholars and two organ scholars) who attend King's College School. The Choir is especially known for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols that it broadcasts to the world each Christmas Eve. The Choir also gives regular concerts and organizes national and internatiinal tours. While religious mucic is at the center of the Choir's existence, the choir also performs contemporary music.

New College, Oxford (Oxfordshire)

St George's Chapel--Langbury College

A HBC reader mentions the St George's Chapel Choir at Langbury College, Shropshire which draws boys from the Priory Preparatory School. "I attended a Priory school, the junior department of Langbury College. Both originally established and run by Benedictine Augustinian monks. The order very quickly established itself within the Anglican Church as an education establishment and therefore escaped its demise, as did many convant orders. The monastic community remained at the school until 1973 when falling numbers (adults) joining the order caused it to amalgamate and join with another order in Northumbria. The school continued until 1975 when it combined with another C of E school and moved to Hampshire. The school was originally started in the 13th century to educate boys to sing Mass in the Benedictine chapel at Wenlock Estate. Its closure was more to do with ecclesiastical politics, having no bearing on its popularity or success as preparatory and public schools."

St. John's College, Cambridge (Cambridgeshire)

St John's College, Cambridge, has a noted tradition of choral religious music. The College since the 1670s is known to have had a Choir. The Collefe Choir's principal duty is to sing the daily services in the College Chapel during each University Term. The services in the Chapel are in accordance with the Cathedral tradition of the Church of England. The Choir sings Evensong six days a week as well as a Sung Eucharist Sunday mornings. The Choir during the University vacation organizes tours both within the United Kingdom as well as overseas. The Choir in recent years has visited France, the Netherlands, and the United States.


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Created: 5:38 PM 7/7/2004
Last updated: 5:38 PM 7/7/2004