Wells Cathedral Choir
Wells Cathedral Choir was hailed in 2011 by an international jury from Gramophone Magazine as the greatest choir with children in the world, and the sixth greatest overall. The choir celebrated its 1100th birthday in 2009: boys first sang at Wells Cathedral in 909 and the full choral tradition dates back over 800 years. In 1994 the choral foundation at Wells was enriched by the addition of girl choristers. Today the choir consists of 18 boy choristers, 18 girl choristers and 12 Vicars Choral (the men of the choir). The boys and girls usually sing separately with the Vicars Choral but occasionally come together for larger events and tours.
The choir is at the heart of the worshipping life of the Cathedral, and sings a wide repertoire of music ranging from the Renaissance period to the present day. It sings throughout the cathedral’s festival, launched in June 2008: new music wells, giving a number of premiers as well as featuring music from the previous forty years. It has premiered works from some of today’s finest composers, including Judith Bingham, Geoffrey Burgon, Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Dove, Gabriel Jackson, John Joubert, James MacMillan CBE, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CH CBE (former Master of the Queen’s Music), Tarik O’Regan, John Rutter, Howard Skempton, and Sir John Tavener.
Wells Cathedral Choir broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and its innovative recordings over the last ten years for Hyperion Records and Regent Records have won international praise: “wonderfully blended, and must rank as one of the top cathedral sounds outside London” (BBC Music Magazine); “currently enjoying a superb top line” (The Observer), and has had two discs made Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine which called the choir “probably the finest English cathedral choir at the moment” in “world-class form”.
As well as the liturgical musical repertoire the choir performs larger scale choral works in concert, with recent collaborations including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Britten War Requiem), Jools Holland and his band (Jools Holland Mass), Wells Cathedral Oratorio Society (Britten St Nicolas and War Requiem), Aled Jones, Dame Felicity Lott, Dame Emma Kirkby, James Bowman CBE, and Wells Cathedral School Chamber Orchestra (at a royal gala concerts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and St James’s Palace, London). In September 2014 the choristers sang with the Berlin Radio Choir and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle OM, in a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the BBC Proms. Shortly afterwards they sang with The Script on the ITV Pride of Britain awards, which was screened to an audience of five million viewers.
The choir has toured extensively with tours to Paris (2006), the North West of England (2008), Germany (2009), The Netherlands (2010), Scotland (2011), and Hong Kong and Beijing (2012).