Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge

Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge is a mixed choir whose primary function is to sing choral services in the Tudor chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. The choir has taken various forms since its foundation, and has existed in its present form since 1982 when, shortly after the admission of girls to the University of Cambridge, female voices were used for the first time for the choir’s top lines.

Four regular services are sung per week in full University Term, and the choir also sings Latin grace from the minstrels' gallery in the college’s Great Hall at a number of feasts.

In addition, the choir undertakes projects outside term-time such as recordings, concerts, radio broadcasts and tours.

The choir typically numbers between 25 and 35 members, most of whom are taken from within Trinity College.


Directors of Music

The current director of music is Stephen Layton, who succeeded Richard Marlow in September 2006. By statute, the Director of Music is also a Category A fellow of the college.

History of the Choir

Trinity College's choral associations date back to the establishment of King's Hall by Edward II in 1317 (Chaucer's 'Solar Hall' in the Canterbury Tales). This College, incorporated by Edward III in 1337, was amalgamated with an adjacent early 14th century foundation, Michaelhouse, when Henry VIII created Trinity in 1546. From the time of Edward II, Chapel Royal choristers, on leaving the Court, customarily entered King's Hall to continue their academic studies, alongside other undergraduates training for service in the royal administration.

The constitution of the medieval chapel choir remains obscure, but the choral foundation which Mary Tudor established in 1553 (ten choristers, six lay-clerks, four priests, an organist, and a schoolmaster) survived essentially unchanged for over 300 years. Among the musicians associated with the choir during this time were the Tudor composers Thomas Preston, Robert Whyte and John Hilton; Robert Ramsay was organist just before the Commonwealth, and Thomas Walmisley during the earlier 19th century.

At the turn of the 20th century, shortly after Ralph Vaughan Williams had graduated from Trinity and Alan Gray had succeeded Charles Villiers Stanford as Organist, the College choir-school closed down. Thereafter, a choir of boy trebles (holding scholarships at a local grammar school), lay-clerks (some of whom shared their duties with the choirs of King's and St John's Colleges) and students continued the regular pattern of choral services until the 1950s. This traditionally-constituted body then gave way to a choir of undergraduate tenors and basses during Raymond Leppard's tenure as Director of Music, to be replaced in turn when the mixed choir was formed by Richard Marlow in 1982.

Tours and Concerts

The choir has toured to destinations such as Germany, France, Spain, the United States and Canada, the Canary Islands, India, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Peru, and Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Particularly notable events include singing mass at the installation of Abbot Martin Werlen, O.S.B. as Abbot of Einsiedeln, Switzerland, and becoming the first western choir to tour India.

The choir also performs concerts in the UK, at home in Cambridge and in London (South Bank Centre, St John's Smith Square, Spitalfields Festival), and around the country. Regular ‘livings tours’ allow the choir to visit parishes around the country of which the college is patron and sing services and concerts; these include villages in the Isle of Wight, North Yorkshire, County Durham, Norfolk and the Lake District.

May Week

On the final Sunday of the academic year the Choir performs two outdoor concerts. At midday the choir sings antiphonally from two of the towers in the college's Great Court, with a brass ensemble performing from the third. In the evening the choir inaugurates May Week with the traditional River Concert, in which the madrigals and part-songs are performed upon punts moored at Trinity Backs. The evening's entertainment concludes, as dusk gives way to darkness, with Wilbye's madrigal 'Draw on, sweet night' performed as the choir is punted down the river and out of sight.


CDs recorded under Stephen Layton:

Handel - Chandos Anthems (2009; Hyperion)

Lukaszewski - Choral Music (2008; Hyperion)

Handel - Dettingen Te Deum (2008; Hyperion)

Trinity College Choir recorded and released some 30 CDs under Richard Marlow on Conifer, Hyperion, GMN and Chandos:

Byrd - Cantiones sacrae (2007; Chandos)

Mendelssohn - Sacred Choral Works (2006; Chandos)

Duruflé - Complete Choral Works (2005; Chandos)

Palestrina - Offertoria (2002; GMN)

A Trinity Christmas (2001; GMN)

Hymns and Descants (2000; GMN)

Sweelinck: Cantiones Sacrae, Vol.1 (1999; Hyperion)

Sweelinck: Cantiones Sacrae, Vol.2 (1999; Hyperion)

Descants from Trinity (1997; Conifer)

Choral Moods (1997; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1997; Conifer)

Bach Family Motets (1997; Conifer)

Britten - Sacred and Profane (1996)

The Songs of Angels (1996; Conifer)

Gibbons - Hosanna to the Son of David (1995; Conifer)

Praetorius - In dulci jubilo (1995; Conifer)

Lassus - Regina coeli and Seasonal Motets (1994; Conifer)

Bach: The Six Motets (1994; Conifer)

Sweelinck: Pseaumes De David (1994; Conifer)

Weelkes/Tomkins - When David Heard (1994; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1993; Conifer)

A Child Is Born (1993; Classics)

Miserere and Other Popular Choral Works (1993; Classics)

Great Is The Lord (1993; Conifer)

Michael Haydn: Masses and Vespers (1993; Classics)

Monteverdi - Motets (1992; Classics)

Monteverdi: Dixit Dominus (1992; Conifer)

Schütz: Psalmen Davids (1991; Conifer)

Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories/Lamentations (1991; Conifer)

Brahms: Complete Motets (1990; Classics)

French Sacred Choral Works (1990; Classics)

Glorious Trinity (1990; Conifer)

Carols from Trinity (1990; Conifer)

Walton: Sacred Choral Music (1989; Conifer)

Poulenc - Sacred Choral Works (1988; Conifer)

Voce: An Intimate Expression of Faith Offered By the Human Voice (1994; Brentwood Music, a compilation)

Plus one recording without a year:

Purcell: Anthems for the Chapel Royal (Conifer)

Directors of Music of the College

  • George Loosemore (app. by Michelmas 1660)
  • Robert Wildbore (app. Sept. 11 1682)
  • Charles Quarles (app. Dec 26 1688)
  • Charles Quarles/John Bowman (app. Aug 13 1709; six months alternately)
  • John Bowman (app. July 4 1717)
  • James Kent (app. June 25 1731)
  • Edward Salisbury (app. Nov 20 1738)
  • William Tireman (app. July 27 1741)
  • William Tireman/John Randall (app. Nov 13 1762)
  • William Tireman (app. June 11 1768)
  • John Randall (app. April 1 1777)
  • John Clarke-Whitfeld (app. 1799)
  • William Beale (app. Nov 1 1820)
  • Samuel Matthews (app. Dec 29 1821)
  • Thomas Attwood Walmisley (app. Feb 1 1833)
  • John Larkin Hopkins (app. Mar 31 1856)
  • Charles Villiers Stanford (app. Feb 21 1874)
  • Alan Gray (1893-1930)
  • Hubert Stanley Middleton (b.1890-d.1959)
  • Raymond Leppard ( -1968)
  • Richard Marlow (1968-2006)
  • Stephen Layton (2006-)


In 2004 the Trinity College Choir Association ("TCCA") was formed by a small group of ex-choral scholars. It provides a framework for all current and past members of the choir, organists and clergy to keep in touch, meet up and make new acquaintances, and to keep abreast of the current activities of the choir. It also comprises a body of people to help and support the interests and the future of the choir.

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