(“…a sound of unostentatious magnificence” – The Scotsman) (“Splendid singing from the Selwyn students” – The Times)

Selwyn College Chapel Choir has led worship in the College Chapel since its foundation in the last decade of the nineteenth century. For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the all-male choir of undergraduates was directed by the Organ Scholars, and sang daily Choral Evensong. For occasional larger works, the men borrowed sopranos and altos from Newnham College, the women’s College across the road from Selwyn. The mixed choir, formed in 1976 with the admission of women to Selwyn, now consists of up to twenty-eight singers, Choral Scholars (called Choral Exhibitioners) and volunteers, and the choir’s link with Newnham continues to the present day. Most of the choir members are undergraduates or graduates at Selwyn or Newnham, with a few volunteers from other colleges, and they read a variety of subjects including Music, English, Natural Sciences, and Engineering.The choir is conducted by the Director of Music, who is assisted by two Organ Scholars, who are normally undergraduates at Selwyn.

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During term, the choir sings three services per week in the College Chapel, as well as concerts and services throughout the UK, recently in venues including Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. Its repertoire ranges from the 10th to the 21st century. They have broadcast services for BBC Radio, have sung live on television, and every year undertake an international tour (in the recent past destinations have included Israel and Palestine, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and much of mainland Europe).

In an on-going collaboration with London’s John Armitage Memorial Trust (JAM), Selwyn Choir has premiered major new works by some of the UK’s foremost composers, including Jonathan Dove, John McCabe, Gabriel Jackson, Paul Patterson, Judith Bingham, Steve Martland, and Adam Gorb. The choir regularly works with international guest conductors, recently including Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Mark Elder, David Hill, Sir David Lumsden, Judith Clurman (Juilliard School, New York), Grayston Ives, Andrew Carwood, Christopher Robinson, Nicholas Cleobury, and Peter Godfrey (New Zealand National Youth Choir).

The choir has made a number of recordings, for labels including Priory, Herald, URM, Kevin Mayhew, and Regent Records, with whom they work most frequently. They have made something of a niche for themselves recording single-living-composer discs, and have released several, including discs of works by Colin Mawby, Paul Spicer, Paul Edwards, Gary Higginson, Alan Bullard, and Phillip Cooke. Currently in production are recordings of works by John Hosking, and another Alan Bullard disc, as well as a popular Christmas disc. The choir’s most recent release is “The Eternal Ecstasy” featuring music by Paul Mealor, Eric Whitacre, Morten Lauridsen, John Tavener, and James MacMillan, and other proponents of the so-called Choral Ecstatic Style, which was featured on Classic FM, and spent three weeks in the specialist charts. The title track, a setting of words from the Ecstasy of St Theresa, was commissioned specially for the disc from Phillip Cooke. Planned for the future are first recordings of choral music by the composers Mark Gotham, Benjamin Ponniah, and Iain Quinn.

Social events are numerous and enjoyable: the choir is a warm and friendly community which enjoys spending time together.Regular choir parties and activities are supplemented by other unusual events like annual October apple picking trips to the orchard in Canon John Sweet’s widow’s back garden.


The choir’s regular weekly commitment is as follows:

1545-1615 : soloists’ rehearsal (some weeks)
1615-1740 : full rehearsal
1800-1900 : Choral Evensong
1715-1815 : rehearsal
1830-1915 : Choral Evensong
1715-1830 : rehearsal (not in exam term)
1715-1815 : rehearsal
1830-1915 : Choral Evensong
Supper on Sunday evenings, an informal hot meal with wine and soft drinks, is provided free for all choir members. Formal Hall (a formal three-course dinner), for which members of the choir pay half price, follows Evensong on Tuesdays and Thursdays.The choir also sings for extra services, including the annual Commemoration of Benefactors, College Carol Services, Communion Services on Holy Days, late-night Compline, funerals, and weddings (for which fees are sometimes paid).


The choir sings a broad range of sacred repertoire, from the 12th to the 21st centuries. Concerts and tours provide opportunities for the choir to sing secular music such as madrigals, folksongs, and part-songs. The Director of Music is happy to incorporate requests from members of the Choir into forthcoming Music Lists. (See our most recent or current Music list.) Recent archived Music Lists can be viewed here:

Lent Term 2019

Michaelmas Term 2018

Easter Term 2018

Lent Term 2018

Michaelmas Term 2017