Music and the Choir

The Choir of Westminster Abbey

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide as one of the finest choirs of its type. Comprising some 30 boys (all of whom attend the Abbey’s dedicated residential Choir School) and 12 professional adult singers (known as Lay Vicars), the Choir plays a central role both in the daily choral services in the Abbey and in the many royal, state and national occasions which take place there. Highlights of recent years have included the Service of Evening Prayer held in the presence of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010, and the Wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011, which was seen by a worldwide television audience of over two billion people.

In addition to fulfilling its responsibilities in Westminster, the Choir undertakes an extensive programme of broadcasts, recordings, and concerts, both in the United Kingdom and overseas. Recent tours have included performances at the Sydney Opera House, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Washington National Cathedral, and Moscow International House of Music. Closer to home, the Choir gives an annual concert as part of the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music in London and has performed at many other major festivals including the BBC Proms. In June 2012 the Choir made a historic visit to Rome during which it sang, at the Pope’s invitation, alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir at the Papal Mass for the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul in St Peter’s Basilica.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey’s celebrated series of recordings for Hyperion includes the complete Great Service by William Byrd, choral works by Edward Elgar, and the critically acclaimed Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey, chosen by Gramophone as a Critics’ Choice and hailed as ‘a showcase for English choral singing at its most charismatic’. The latest release is a disc of music by the sixteenth-century English composer Christopher Tye.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is directed by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers.

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