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Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Dating back to 1692, the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, is among England's most highly regarded small choirs. The group has recently begun a recording program on the Albion and Somm labels. The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in London, was founded in 1682 by King Charles II. Among its earliest buildings was the Wren Chapel, designed by architect Christopher Wren and consecrated in 1691. The following year, the Hospital was designated a retirement home for English army members from the area, known as Chelsea Pensioners or In-Pensioners. The Hospital continues to fulfill this function today. In 1693, Peter Dumas was named Organist, a position that also involved directing the choir. Remarkably, there have been only 15 Chapel Choir Organists since that time, with several of them holding the position for 40 years or close to it. The famed musicologist Charles Burney served as Organist from 1783 until 1814. Between 1817 and 1974, all of the Organists were women. Ian Curror was named to the position in 1974; he remained in place until he was succeeded by William Vann in 2012, and Vann continued as Organist into the early 2020s. The choir consists of 12 adult, mixed-gender singers: five sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and three basses. They are selected through a rigorous audition process that tests not only general musicianship and flexibility of vocal tone but also friendliness and a capacity for cooperation. The Chapel Choir sings at the Hospital's Sunday morning Matins services and also gives regular concerts at the Hospital; these are often sold out. The group maintains a large repertory stretching from the Renaissance to the 20th century. The group undertakes working vacations during the summer, appearing at cathedrals around Britain, and it has been heard on the BBC programs Songs of Praise and Choral Evensong. The choir has collaborated with leading early music groups, including The English Concert, The Tallis Scholars, and the Monteverdi Choir, and its membership overlaps with those of The Sixteen and the BBC Singers. The group's recording catalog is sparse considering the high regard in which it is held, but under Vann, it has begun to record on the Somm and Albion labels; on the latter, it released Ralph Vaughan Williams: An Oxford Christmas in 2021.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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