Watch an exclusive video interview with Dr Richard Marlow, Director of The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, and some of its choristers.
Listen to an audio version
THE CHOIR of TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE - Synopsis of the interview:
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING ...
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge has a long and prestigious history. Director of Music, Richard Marlow, opens with a discussion on the choir's origins.
In the early 15th century when Kings Hall was founded, a boys choir was formed for the chapel services and daily concerts. These young choristers eventually went on to undergraduate studies at Kings Hall.
In the 1540s, King Henry VIII founded the Trinity Choir, merging it with the Kings Hall Choir, forming the Cambridge Trinity College Choir. The choir existed in this form until the 1950s when it was replaced by undergraduate tenors and basses.
The advent of co-education in the 1970s brought about further change, as females were admitted to the colleges. Finally, in 1982, the present mixed choir was formed.
THE CHOIR NOW…
The group is currently made up of 29 students. Throughout university terms they rehearse every day except Saturdays, and perform at two services mid-week and two services on Sunday. They make two to three CDs a year, and also undertake several tours each year.
RICHARD MARLOW (Musical Director)…
Marlow has experienced choral life first hand, having been a choirboy at Southwark Cathedral throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s. With this group, he performed at the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II.
After these early experiences, he went on to pursue organ studies at Cambridge University, during which time he also completed a Ph.D. Following his studies, Marlow went on to become a lecturer at Southampton University, after which he joined the staff at Cambridge University, where he has been for the past thirteen years.
CHOIR MEMBER EXPERIENCES…
"It's quite tough competition." At the auditions there are maybe 15 students who will go for a soprano position, and of those only 2 or 3 will be successful.
"I enjoy singing the services at the chapel, and for me too there is a religious element because I'm Roman Catholic."
The members get a taste of singing in all different styles: "…you are far more exposed when you're singing in the Chapel with just the organ … [with an orchestra] you have to project in a completely different way."
And on touring … "the tours are the highlights, particularly South Africa and Zimbabwe." The tours have provided many members with experiences that they might never have undertaken on their own.
Within the present choir, seven or eight members study music as an academic discipline. Whilst the others may study singing privately, they are undertaking degrees from other faculties, ranging from the arts and theology, to mathematics and science.
Competition is strong, not only do members have to sing 'like a nightingale' they must also achieve very high academic results.
Unlike many Universities around the world, the colleges within Cambridge University are responsible for the enrollment of students. Every college has its own dining hall, library, chapel, sporting facilities etc., and most colleges have their own chapel choir.
Trinity College has an esteemed history: the music within Trinity Chapel has been performed by very eminent organists and directors through the centuries, and six or seven of the translators of the King James Bible were resident members of Trinity College. Richard Marlow frequently shares Trinity's history with the choir, believing it to be inspirational - to think that these people "had meetings and discussions within these very walls…"
LIFE AFTER TRINITY CHOIR…
Marlow says that only a few will choose to follow a singing career, some may take up roles in Arts Administration, whilst the majority will go on to careers that cover all aspects of society.
His main hope is that choir members "…will have discovered something special about music … how it can excite and communicate, and that will stay with them for the rest of their lives."