The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide as one of the finest choirs of its type. Comprising some thirty boys (all of whom attend the Abbey’s unique Choir School) and twelve professional adult singers (known as Lay Vicars), its main focus is to sing the daily choral services in the Abbey, as it has done for more than six centuries.
It also plays a central role in the many royal, state, and national occasions which take place here, many of which are broadcast on television and radio. In recent years these have included 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; a service to celebrate the diamond jubilee of HM The Queen’s Coronation; several national services commemorating the centenary of World War I; and memorial services for Nelson Mandela, Sir John Tavener, Sir Terry Wogan and other national and international figures.
In parallel with its liturgical work, the Choir pursues a varied programme of high-profile recordings, concerts and tours. Under the direction of principal conductor James O’Donnell it has travelled to Australia, the Far East, the United States, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Italy and Spain. In June 2012 Pope Benedict invited the Choir to sing together with the Sistine Chapel Choir at a Papal Mass in St Peter’s in Rome – an unprecedented collaboration – and a return visit to Rome was made at the invitation of Pope Francis in January 2017. In the United Kingdom the Choir presents a successful annual concert programme in the Abbey and has also appeared at many leading concert venues and festivals including the BBC Proms.
The Abbey Choir enjoys a successful recording partnership with the Hyperion label. Its critically acclaimed catalogue covers a wide range of music including the complete Great Service by William Byrd, music by John Taverner and Christopher Tye, choral works by Elgar, Ireland, Bax and Finzi, Parry ceremonial music with Onyx Brass, Duruflé Requiem with Britten Sinfonia and, most recently, Missa Videte miraculum and other works by the Tudor composer Nicholas Ludford.
The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.