Visiting Choirs

Visiting Choirs

When Wells Cathedral choir is on vacation we warmly welcome other choirs, from both this country and abroad, to come and sing the services. Visiting choirs play a valuable part in the life of the Cathedral, enabling the choral tradition to continue during our own choir’s holiday.

If there are no suitable dates or services available for your choir to sing, we may be able to offer you a lunchtime concert slot. Click here to find out more and to make an enquiry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Wells?
Wells is England’s smallest city, and arguably one of its prettiest. The beautiful medieval architecture of the Cathedral and Vicars Close, along with the majesty of the neighbouring Bishop’s Palace (home to the Bishop of Bath & Wells), make it a very special place indeed. There is plenty to see and do in the surrounding Somerset countryside, and the Somerset coast is within relatively easy reach.

The Cathedral itself has been called ‘a prayer in stone and glass’, and has had its own choir since at least 1136.

What are the duties of a visiting choir?

Visiting choirs sing at Evensong services Monday to Saturday, and at Eucharist and Evensong on a Sunday. A day off can be arranged for choirs singing for a whole week, thus giving touring choirs the chance to sing for one day.

How long is the residency?

In July and August choirs visit for one week (Monday to Sunday), singing all Evensong services and Eucharist on the Sunday. A day off in the week can be arranged, thus giving touring choirs the chance to sing for one day.

At the times of other Cathedral choir vacations, weeks may be split between weekdays and weekends. Please contact us to discuss your requirements and we will do our very best to assist.

What is the maximum number of singers?
We can accommodate up to an absolute maximum of fifty singers in any one service.

What do we sing?
Singing in the Cathedral does not demand a challenging repertoire, and it is often more effective and fulfilling to perform relatively modest music which is well-known to the singers. The workload can easily be reduced by performing only one or two sets of responses. Some choirs choose to sing one or more services with only the front or back row of the choir.

Music lists must be submitted for approval (using the appropriate form) at least 3 months before the choir visits. It is important that forms are submitted this far in advance in case choirs wish to perform the same anthems, mass or canticle settings (as generally we do not like to repeat music within any two week period and as our music scheme covers a one month period).

Regarding hymns, these are selected by the Canon in Residence and a list is e-mailed to the choir in advance. Details of psalms are provided in our Visiting Choirs Guide, issued when a booking is confirmed.

The Cathedral uses the New English Hymnal.

Do we need to bring our own music?
Yes. Visiting choirs need to bring all of their own music. The Cathedral uses the New English Hymnal, and although some copies of this will be in the Quire stalls and Song School, we cannot guarantee that we will have enough for all.

Do we need to bring our own Chaplain or Cantor?
Yes. You will need to bring a Cantor (clerical or lay) to sing the responses.

What do we wear?
Robed choirs should wear their cassocks for all rehearsals in the stalls, and with surplices for services. Unrobed choirs are expected to wear formal clothes for rehearsals as well as services. Ladies are asked to wear flat shoes.

Where can our choir rehearse?
Visiting choirs can rehearse in the Cathedral from 4pm-5pm Monday to Saturday, and from 9am-9.30am and 2pm-2.30pm on Sundays. The Cathedral’s Song School can be used for practice at other times, but this must be booked in advance of your visit.

When can our organist rehearse?
Organists must book all practice time in advance.

Except between 8.30 a.m. and 10.00 a.m. and after 4.00 p.m., all practice must be near silent.

How do I know what dates are available?
Please contact Melanie Lawlor in the Cathedral Music Office via , and she will let you know availability.

Can we perform a concert whilst at the Cathedral?
It may be possible for your choir to perform a lunchtime concert whilst at the Cathedral. Please ask for more details once a visit has been arranged for your choir.

Can we record within the Cathedral?
If you wish to record a service which you are singing, discreet audio recording is permitted with advance written permission of the Chapter (for which you need to apply at least four weeks before your visit). Final arrangements must then be made with the duty Virger when you arrive. Photography and video recording are not permitted during services.

If you wish to record outside of service times, your request can be considered by the Chapter but a charge would be made for the use of the Cathedral and the Organ.

Can we arrange a special tour of the Cathedral?
We are pleased to offer your choir a tour of the Cathedral. Please contact the Visitor Services Team via ­or 01749 671663 at least two weeks in advance. Members of your choir are also welcome to join the regular daily tours of the cathedral floor.

Additionally, tours of the Cathedral Library, with its collection of rare and ancient books, can be arranged with a minimum of two weeks’ notice. Donations are requested for this specialist tour.

Where can we stay?
In summer weeks, accommodation is usually available in Wells Cathedral School. Please contact Kay Pennycott on 01749 834298 or via .

There is a list of further accommodation in Wells available on the Tourist Information website

Where can we eat?

With its views of the stunning West Front of the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, our Cathedral Café is conveniently located on the first floor of the Entry Cloister. It can seat up to 96 people and serves coffees, lunches, and pre-Evensong teas, allowing your group to dine together and be on time for rehearsal. Tables can be reserved for you.

We also cater for Visiting Choir dinners or suppers whether in the Café or in our medieval Vicars’ Hall function room. Affordable packages and menus are available for visiting choirs. To discuss your group’s catering needs please contact Marianne Carter, Deputy Catering Manager, on 01749 676543 or e-mail

Listen to our Music

Sunday 22nd May: The Cathedral will be holding a special service of Thanksgiving for the Platinum Jubilee at 3pm to which all are warmly invited. There will be restricted access to visitors from 1.30pm, and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.