Choir of Merton College, Oxford
The Choir of Merton College is one of Oxford’s leading mixed-voice choirs. It consists of thirty undergraduates and postgraduates, many of whom hold choral scholarships at Merton College. The choir has toured to France (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015), the USA (2011 and 2014) and Sweden (2013). Recent performances have included Duruflé’s Requiem in the Cheltenham Music Festival, Tallis’s Spem in alium in the Beaujolais Festival, Mozart’s Requiem in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Orff’s Carmina Burana in the St Jude’s Proms, the premiere of David Briggs’ Messe Solennelle in St Paul’s Cathedral and concerts in Cadogan Hall and St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.
The main focus of the choir’s work is the singing of services in the College’s thirteenth-century chapel. In addition to daily Evensong during term-time, special services such as the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany carol services and the Requiem Mass for All Souls have a large following. The choir also plays a leading role in the annual ‘Passiontide at Merton’ festival, which has included performances of Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions and Mass in B minor, Handel’s Messiah and, in 2013, Arvo Pärt’s Passio. The 2014 festival included the premiere of Gabriel Jackson’s The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The choir’s debut CD, In the Beginning (DCD34072), features music by Gombert, Weelkes, Holst, Copland and Jackson and was named Editor’s Choice in the December 2011 edition of Gramophone magazine. Advent at Merton (DCD34122) was released in 2012 and spent six weeks in the Specialist Classical Chart. The Merton Collection (DCD34134) – a programme of old and new works specially designed to mark the College’s 750th anniversary – followed a year later, and in 2014 The Marian Collection (DCD34144) marked the addition of a statue of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, by the renowned English sculptor Peter Eugene Ball, to Merton College Chapel’s fourteenth century south transept.
In addition to its ongoing recording relationship with Delphian, the choir has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and in February 2013 was filmed for the BBC television series David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy. In the last few years Merton College Choir has given first performances of new choral works by Judith Weir, John Tavener, James MacMillan, Jonathan Dove, Ēriks Ešenvalds and Cecilia McDowall, and in November 2014 gave the premiere of a new motet by Harrison Birtwistle. The choir spent 2014 in a ‘new music’ partnership with Choir & Organ magazine, and enjoys a relationship with Faber Music as Choir-in-Association.