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Choir of Merton College, Oxford

The Choir of Merton College, Oxford, combines responsibilities at the school's chapel services with a schedule of touring across the U.K. and internationally. The choir records for the Delphian label. Choral singing at Merton College Chapel dates back to the chapel's founding in the late 13th century, but the present Choir of Merton College, Oxford, was founded in 2008 as a mixed-gender adult ensemble. The group comprises 30 Oxford students, both undergraduates and postgraduates (graduate students in American parlance). A Merton College Girl Choristers group was added in 2016 and sometimes performs with the main choir; the two groups are the newest of Oxford's many choirs. Many of the singers are Choral Scholars, Oxford students who perform in the choir in exchange for financial support. Soon after its formation, the choir made its first tour of France in 2009 and has since returned to that country four more times. The choir has also toured the U.S. three times, Sweden once, and Italy once; in 2017, it performed at the first Anglican service held at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The group has appeared routinely in London at such venues as the Temple Church, St. John's Smith Square, and Cadogan Hall and has sung at major English cathedrals. At home in Oxford, the choir sings services while the college is in session at the Merton College Chapel. The choir began recording for the Delphian label in 2011 with In the Beginning, a recital of mixed Renaissance and contemporary choral works. The choir's repertory is unusually varied, extending from Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium through major choral works of Bach, Handel, and Mozart to the decidedly secular Carmina Burana of Carl Orff and a substantial amount of contemporary music. The Choir of Merton College, Oxford, has premiered works by major contemporary composers, including Harrison Birtwistle, Ēriks Ešenvalds, and Cecilia McDowall. The group has continued to record for Delphian, issuing Sleeper's Prayer: Choral Music from North America on that label in 2020. In 2022, the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, issued an album of music by Herbert Howells and Ian Venables. The choir returned in 2023 with a pair of albums, one devoted to the Christmas Oratorio of Bob Chilcott and the other to anthems by George Dyson, Howells, Elgar, and Gerald Finzi, among others.
© James Manheim /TiVo


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