The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
Director Richard Marlow
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge is one of the oldest and most celebrated choirs in the world with a long tradition of specialised choral schooling. Its origins date from the early fourteenth century when choristers of the Chapel Royal,on leaving the Court, customarily entered The King's Hall (Chaucer's 'Solar Hall' in The Canterbury Tales) to continue their
academic studies alongside other undergraduates training for service in the royal
administration. When King Henry VIII founded the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity
in 1546 a medieval chapel choir was formed - the exact constitution of the choir remains obscure, but the choral foundation Mary Tudor established for Trinity in 1553 – ten choristers, six
lay-clerks, four clerks, four priests, an organist and a schoolmaster survived essentially
unchanged for well over three hundred years. Among the musicians associated with the choir
during this time were the Tudor composers, Thomas Preston, Robert White, a cantor during
the 1550s; and John Hilton, Organist and Master of the Choristers form 1594 to 1609. The
theorist, Thomas Mace, was appointed a ‘singing man' in 1635, during the time
that Robert Ramsey was in charge of the choir. George Loosemore became organist at the
Restoration. Later choirmasters included James Kent and John Randall during the eighteenth
century and Thomas Attwood Walmisley during the nineteenth.
At the turn of the present century, shortly after Vaughan Williams had graduated at Trinity and Alan Gray had succeeded Charles Villiers Stanford as Organist, the College choir-school closed down. Thereafter, a choir of boy trebles (drawn from a local grammar school) and lay-clerks (some of whom shared their duties with the choirs of King's and St John's Colleges) continued the regular pattern of choral services until the 1950s. This traditionally constituted body was then replaced by a choir of undergraduate tenors and basses when Raymond Leppard became Director of Music.
Trinity’s mixed choir, comprising up to thirty choral scholars – who study a wide range of academic subjects – was formed by the present Director of Music, Richard Marlow, in 1982, a few years after the admission of women undergraduates to the College.
The choristers' duties include singing four weekly services in Chapel during term-time and chanting Grace form the Minstrels’ Gallery in Hall at College Feasts. On the final Sunday of each academical year, at noon, there is an outdoor concert of music for voices and brass performed antiphonally from the three gateway towers of the Great Court; Later, at twilight, form punts moored at Trinity Backs, the choir sings the traditional River Concert that inaugurates May Week at Cambridge.
Since it was established in 1982, the mixed choir has produced more than three dozen commercial recordings, enthusiastically received by critics and public alike. Following the highly successful recording of Hymns and Descants on GMN, there are several more CDs planned for release through GMN this year.
Annual radio transmissions for the BBC include Choral Evensong and special seasonal sequences, such as the College's Epiphany Carol Service broadcast each January. BBC television has also recorded the choir, including a presentation of the Advent Carol Service.
In addition to giving regular concerts in London and Cambridge, the choir sings recitals and services during some summer vacations in various parish churches – situated mostly in the north of England – of which the College is patron. Three or more foreign tours take place each year. These have included visits to several European countries as well as to Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Namibia, South Africa, Taiwan, Zimbabwe and the U.S.A.