The Choir of Magdalen College

chamber choir
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In 1480 provision was made at Magdalen for eight singing-men, four chaplains and 16 choristers, creating one of the oldest and largest choral foundations in late-medieval England. With the more recent addition of four clerks and two Organ Scholars, that tradition has been maintained to this day. The Choristers are educated at Magdalen College School, while the Academical Clerks are all undergraduates at Magdalen reading a variety of subjects. The Director of Music, Bill Ives, still retains the ancient Latin title, Informator Choristarum (Instructor of the Choristers). Many notable musicians have held this post, including John Sheppard, Daniel Purcell (brother of Henry), Sir John Stainer, Sir William McKie and Bernard Rose.

The main duty of the Choir is to sing daily in the College Chapel; during the University Term there are seven choral services each week. The Choir also sings at a number of special occasions throughout the academic year, including the great May Day celebrations, an ancient tradition dating back to c. 1509.

In recent years Magdalen College Choir has sung in Japan, USA, Hungary, Italy, Belgium and France. They have also featured on film and television, most notably in Richard Attenborough’s acclaimed movie, ‘Shadowlands.’ Other soundtracks and appearances include 20th Century Fox’s ‘Ever After’ and Channel Four’s millennium production, ‘Longitude.’ They have recently recorded a film soundtrack with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: George Fenton’s score for the movie ‘Deep Blue’ (taken from the remarkable BBC TV series, ‘The Blue Planet’). In 2001 the Choir presented the first public performance of a major new choral work, Ecce cor meum, written especially for them by Sir Paul McCartney. For harmonia mundi, the Choir, with Fretwork, recorded a programme of Orlando Gibbons, With a Merrie Noyse, which was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award. This was followed by a recording of music by Christopher Tye.

Bill Ives, Organist, Informator Choristarum and Tutor in Music at Magdalen College, Oxford, has a special interest in composing and arranging; many of his published works, both sacred and secular, are regularly performed in the UK and abroad. A sample of his compositions will soon appear on harmonia mundi. As a former member of The King’s Singers, he has first-hand knowledge of choral singing across a wide musical spectrum.

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