PEMBROKE COLLEGE CHAPEL CHOIR
ABOUT THE CHOIR
The Pembroke College Chapel Choir provides the opportunity for regular Choral singing in the College Chapel, along with bi-annual tours and regular outreach work.
The Choir is made up of 25 singers; alongside undergraduate and graduate members of Pembroke can be found singers from other colleges, other universities and working professionals from Cambridge. The choir's main responsibility is contributing to worship in the college's chapel, the first built by Christopher Wren, consecrated in 1655. As well as Sunday Eucharist and Evensong, there are regular midweek services. Some of these give local schoolchildren the opportunity to experience high quality music-making in the Anglican choral tradition. There are also seasonal concerts performing larger-scale works with orchestra, recent highlights of which include Haydn’s Nelson Mass and Bach’s Magnificat.
Pembroke has been fortunate in the recent appointment of Anna Lapwood as Director of Music, who over the past two years has taken the choir’s outreach work further afield. An ongoing collaboration with the Muze Trust led the choir to undertake a tour to Zambia last summer. Closer to home, this year the choir hosted children from Pembroke House in Walworth, London for a day of music workshops and the chance to explore the city. Members of the choir also supported the recent Bach-a-thon, a nonstop performance of the complete organ works of J. S. Bach by an all-female team of organists. This was a fitting springboard for the launch of Pembroke’s Girls’ Choir, which this summer will welcome its first cohort of 11-18 year-old female singers.
Unusually amongst Oxbridge choirs, Pembroke has a number of exciting popular collaborations. They sang alongside Eric Idle, have appeared on tour with Gareth Malone and The Swingles, and have made two recordings at Abbey Road Studios. These opportunities provide a refreshing contrast to the choir’s more typical program of concerts in Cambridge, London, and frequent tours both across Europe and to cathedrals throughout the UK.
Pembroke does not make choral awards until students arrive in October. Auditions for places in the Choir (known as Choristerships) are held towards the end of freshers' week every year. Choristers can expect to sing an average of two services a week, in return for which they receive free singing lessons and a free formal meal every Sunday, alongside two heavily subsidised tours each year.
The Organ Scholars at Pembroke work directly with the Director of Music, taking on responsibility for planning the music of the Chapel Services and for recruiting and training the Choir. The College sets considerable store on allowing the scholars the opportunity to shape the musical life of the Chapel, ensuring a degree of autonomy in making musical decisions and extensive experience in conducting.
Alongside accompanying the Chapel Choir, the Organ Scholar also works with the Girls' Choir, giving scholars the opportunity to learn about training young voices. The combination of the Girls' Choir and Chapel Choir leads to a commitment of four services a week.
Sunday Eucharist is entirely the responsibility of the organ scholars, who put together a choir of volunteers, rehearse the music and conduct the service.
Alongside regular Choristerships, the College appoints a small consort of Choral Exhibitioners each year. Exhibitioners sing all regular services, as well as a Sung Eucharist every week, providing an opportunity to explore some more challenging consort repertoire. Exhibitioners are encouraged to take the lead with the Choir's extensive outreach work, both continuing existing projects and exploring means of expansion. In return, they receive the standard choir benefits alongside a small annual stipend.