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Artist Hyperion Records
Westminster Abbey Choir
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Westminster Abbey Choir

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide as one of the finest choirs of its type. The Abbey traces its history back to the foundation, in 960, of a community of Benedictine monks on the present site. King Edward (subsequently canonised as Saint Edward the Confessor) later enlarged and richly endowed the Abbey and built a new church which was dedicated in 1065. It is thought that boys first began to sing in the Abbey’s Lady Chapel during the 1380s, which coincided with the appointments of the first professional choir master and lay adult singers. Over the following centuries the Lady Chapel choir became known as one of the finest in the land, and it was this choir of boys and men that became the Choir for the new Collegiate Church established after the Reformation by Queen Elizabeth I in 1560. Today the Choir consists of some 30 boys (all of whom attend the Abbey’s dedicated residential Choir School in the precincts) and 12 professional adult singers known as Lay Vicars. Since January 2000 the Organist and Master of the Choristers has been James O’Donnell.

At the heart of the Abbey Choir’s life are the daily choral services, which provide a link with the Abbey’s monastic heritage. The Choir also plays an important role in the many royal, state and national occasions which take place in the Abbey. Over the centuries some of England’s most illustrious musical figures have been closely associated with Westminster Abbey, among whom Orlando Gibbons (Organist, 1623-5), Henry Purcell (1680-95), and John Blow (1669-80 and 1695-1708) stand out. The Abbey has been the setting for every coronation but two since 1066, and on these and other significant occasions many important musical works have received their first performance. This tradition continues to the present day: recent commissions include works by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Jonathan Harvey and Francis Grier, and most recently the anthem The King and the Robin by Philip Moore, to a text by Andrew Motion.

In additional to fulfilling its many responsibilities in Westminster, the Choir undertakes an extensive programme of concerts and tours, travelling in recent years to the United States, the Far East, Spain, France, Poland, and Russia. The Choir appears every year at the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music in London and has been invited to participate in other major festivals, including the BBC Proms, the South Bank Centre’s World Voice and Birtwistle Games festivals, the Aarhus International Organ Festival (Denmark), and the opening concert of the Nuremberg International Organ Festival (Germany) in 2004. The Choir broadcasts frequently on national radio and television.


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