Founded in the fifteenth century, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge is undoubtedly one of the world’s best known choral groups. Every Christmas Eve millions of people worldwide tune in to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast each year by the BBC since 1928. While the choir exists primarily to sing the daily services in King’s College Chapel, its worldwide fame and reputation, enhanced by its many recordings, has led to invitations to perform throughout the world and an extensive international touring schedule.
In recent seasons the Choir has traveled throughout Europe and the Americas as well as to Australia and the Asia-Pacific, giving performances at such notable venues as the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Brussels), Settembre Musicale (Turin), Santa Cecilia (Rome), Hong Kong Cultural Centre, National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Centre (Taiwan), and Seoul Arts Centre, to name just a few. The Choir has also performed at the Stresa Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Gothenburg Church Music Festival, Stuttgart Barock Festival, Istanbul International Music Festival and at several other music festivals throughout the United Kingdom.
The Choir maintains a busy schedule throughout the UK and makes frequent guest appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Philharmonia Orchestra. In addition, it has close relationships with the Academy of Ancient Music and other early music ensembles including Florilegium and Fretwork. In 2009, the Choir was delighted to join other Cambridge artists, ensembles, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis in a BBC Prom to mark Cambridge University's 800th anniversary.
In the 2010/11 season and beyond the Choir’s many international appearances bring it to Musikfest Bremen, Hildesheim, Osnabrueck, Halberstadt and Merseberg in Germany, the Flanders Festival in Gent, the Palace of Arts in Budapest, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Future plans for the Choir involve a European summer festival tour, a return visit to the US and to Australia.
Palm Sunday 2009 saw King's College undertake a unique project in collaboration with Opus Arte and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Under the baton of Stephen Cleobury, and accompanied by the Academy of Ancient Music, the Choir's performance of Handel's Messiah in King's College Chapel was screened live by satellite to cinemas throughout the UK, mainland Europe and North America. This was the first ever live broadcast of a choral concert anywhere in the world and was undertaken as part of the King's Easter Festival as well as to celebrate the 250th anniversary Handel’s death and the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. A CD and DVD of the performance were released by EMI Classics and are now available in stores and online.
The Choir enjoys a prolific relationship with EMI Classics and its July 2009 release of England, My England brings together many English choral favourites, including Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Tallis’ Spem in alium. Future plans with EMI include a CD release of the 80th anniversary broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. In 2004-05 the Choir’s recording of Rachmaninov’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was nominated for a Grammy® Award. Gramophone magazine called the recording “without a shadow of doubt, a triumph... there is no comparable rival to this disc.”
Recent additions to the discography include I Heard a Voice, which includes music by Tudor composers Gibbons, Tomkins and Weelkes; a recording of Brahms’ Requiem in the composer’s arrangement for choir, soloists and piano four hands; a Purcell disc of Music for Queen Mary with the Academy of Ancient Music; John Rutter’s Gloria with the CBSO; and a recording of Rachmaninov’s Vespers (which won the first ever Classical Brit Award). A more recent DVD, Anthems from King’s, was released following the success of Carols from King’s, which contains historic footage of the Choir.
The Choir of King’s College owes its existence to King Henry VI who, in founding the College in 1441, envisaged the daily singing of services in his magnificent chapel, one of the jewels of Britain’s cultural and architectural heritage. As the pre-eminent representative of the great British church music tradition, the Choir regards the singing of the daily services as its raison d’être, and these are an important part of the lives of its sixteen choristers, fourteen choral scholars and two organ scholars who study in the College itself. The choristers are educated at King’s College School in Cambridge and receive generous scholarships from King’s College to help pay for their education. For full information about King’s College School and the life of a Chorister, please see www.kcs.cambs.sch.uk.
Stephen Cleobury, CBE is always pleased to hear from potential members of the Choir, choristers, choral scholars and organ scholars. Those interested are invited to contact him on telephone 01223 331224 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.