St Catharine’s College boasts a distinguished and varied musical tradition, in which the College Choir plays a major role.
With musical activities ranging from intimate chamber/consort singing to large-scale choral consorts, from Anglican Evensong to Choral Compline, members of St Catharine’s College Choir have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of musical activities; and in its role as an ambassador for St Catharine's outside the College walls, the Choir’s concerts and recordings, educational and community work, has earned it a reputation for innovation and excellence.
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The focus of the Choir’s activities is the Chapel, with one of the finest acoustics in Cambridge, and the regular weekly services of Evensong, Eucharist and Compline ('Night Songs'). At Sunday Evensong we sing the Anglican liturgy in its traditional form, while at Thursday night Night Songs we use Medieval Gregorian chant, choral and instrumental chamber music to create a more intimate atmosphere. The Choir also participates – on a rotational basis – in Sunday morning Eucharist and – on occasion – contributes to the Tuesday evening service of Luminaria, alongside the St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir.
The Choir gives regular concerts, often of major choral works such as the Monteverdi Vespers and Mozart's Requiem, in collaboration with professional instrumentalists. The choir is also embarked on a series of recordings for the Resonus label, the latest of which - of contemporary music for Advent and Christmas - was released in autumn 2020.
Membership of the Choir is by audition, and anyone interested in singing in the Choir is encouraged to contact the Director of Music at any point to enquire about auditions.
The Choir is made up of approximately 24 singers, drawn mainly from undergraduate and graduate students at St Catharine’s College, but also open to students from other colleges. Prospective singers may wish to apply for a Choral Award in advance of their arrival at Cambridge; singers can also audition when they arrive in Cambridge as freshers.
The Choir is a lively and sociable group, a characteristic of the College as a whole. This is enhanced by the opportunities provided for choir members to share meals, tour and record together and play a part in some of the most significant events in the College’s calendar.
In acknowledgement of their contribution to college life, choir members receive one supper and formal hall per week gratis. Choir members may all receive free singing tuition, either with Dr Edward Wickham or with an external singing teacher.
St Catharine's aims to attract talented and ambitious singers who are nevertheless not wanting to devote all their energies to this one activity. Members of the Choir have the opportunity to be involved in a wider range of musical and non-musical activities such as running the College Music Society, playing for, singing in and even producing musicals and operas.
Membership of the Choir thus represents an important commitment. A typical weekly schedule consists of:
- Wednesday: 17.15-18.30, rehearsal
- Thursday: 17.15- 18.30, rehearsal followed either by a service (18.30-19.30) or Night Songs (21.30-22.00)
- Sunday: 9.15-11.00, rehearsal and Eucharist; 16.45-19.00, rehearsal and Evensong
NB this schedule has been altered for the current year because of Covid restrictions.
In addition, each year there will be:
- Major choral concert
- Recording sessions
- Feast day services/carol services
- Occasional participation in Luminaria (Tuesday evenings)
The Choir gives concerts throughout the year, some of which feature major choral works; others - such as their recent King's Place recital - a cappella. The choir also undertakes at least one tour each year.
The Choirs at St Catharine’s are committed to innovative work, and this is reflected in its CD recordings, which have featured significant amounts of new or little known repertoire. The choir has been recording on the Resonus label for the last five years, starting with a three-CD recording project of contemporary music, the most recent of which was released in March 2017; and continuing with two releases devoted to Renaissance repertoire: a programme devoted to the music of Claude Le Jeune and an anthology of Renaissance motets in honour of St Catharine. The most recent release is of new works for Advent and Christmas.