Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge
Jesus College Cambridge, founded out of the ancient nunnery of St Radegund in 1496, has a long and rich tradition of church music. It is distinctive in maintaining two choirs: the Chapel Choir, with its centuries of tradition, which is made up of boy choristers and adult male singers; and the College Choir, formed in 1982, which has female undergraduates for its top line. The adult male singers form the ‘back row’ for both choirs. Each choir has developed a distinctive reputation and repertoire, whilst combining for key events and large-scale projects. In addition to the weekly schedule of choral services, members of the Choirs enjoy concerts, recordings, broadcasts and foreign tours.
The College Choir sings two services of Choral Evensong each week and regularly performs at College feasts, additional services and concerts throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. Recently, the Choir has given well-received performances of Bach’s St John Passion, Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle; participated in the BBC Proms as part of the University’s 800th anniversary celebrations; and recorded broadcasts for BBC TV and Radios 2, 3 and 4. The Choir also has a rapidly expanding discography. Praised by The Times for their “energy, verve, immaculate tuning and beguiling tone”, Jesus Choral Scholars enjoy an exciting schedule of European and long-haul travel: the Choir has given recent concerts in Turkey, Belgium and the Ukraine and is engaged in an educational collaboration with children in the slums of Mumbai.
The all-male Chapel Choir is one of only three college choirs of its kind in Cambridge, and is highly regarded. It is thought that boys may have sung in the Chapel from the foundation of the College in the fifteenth century, but in 1849 the Choir was re-endowed and provision was made for “six singing boys” to adorn the worship of the newly-restored Chapel. Since then, trebles from all over Cambridge have volunteered to sing for College services. The College does not maintain a choir school, but instead recruits choristers from a wide range of local schools. The Chapel Choir sings for two of the four Choral Evensongs each week, and also participates in services, events and concerts outside of the usual weekly routine. Recent performances have taken the full Choir to venues as diverse as the Abbaye de Solesmes, France and the Chapel of Magdalen College Oxford; while the Choristers have travelled to Arundel Castle to film for Channel 4 and Manchester to give live BBC radio broadcasts (visiting Old Trafford on the way!). The trebles have collaborated regularly with the Choir of King’s College and the Academy of Ancient Music for performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The Choir also leads singing days which see hundreds of local schoolchildren visiting Jesus College Chapel to take part in vocal workshops and a final concert. The Chapel Choir has made several recordings, including a disc of Choral Evensong from Jesus College, and Sweet Spirit, Comfort Me, a selection of music for boys’ voices on the Priory label.
Occasionally, the College and Chapel Choirs join together for services and concerts, forming an ensemble of nearly fifty singers. Recent projects have included Britten’s War Requiem in King’s College Chapel under David Hill; two Christmas Celebration concerts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by John Rutter; Britten’s St Nicolas with Britten Sinfonia; Fauré’s Requiem and works by Poulenc and Rodney Bennett, also with Britten Sinfonia; and Bach’s St Matthew Passion in St Edmundsbury Cathedral, all under Mark Williams. The Combined Choirs also tour together from time to time, recently visiting Germany and the USA, performing in a variety of venues along the East Coast of the United States of America, and featuring on television stations including BBC1, ITV, CNN and ABC, and on BBC Radio 5 Live. This is the first recording made by the Combined Choirs of Jesus College.