The Winchester Cathedral Choir is an internationally recognized professional choir based at the Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire. The exact year in which the chorus was founded is unknown, but it is likely that the choir was formed in the 14th century. The earliest historical document relating to the chorus dates from 1402 when a John Dyer is named as the cathedral's organist and chorusmaster. A 1544 statute by Henry VIII of England decreed that the cathedral should have ten boys in the choir and a single organist.
The Winchester Cathedral Choir currently consists of 18-20 boy choristers and 12 lay clerks and sings eight services weekly in the Winchester Cathedral, and, during term time they sing an average of eight services each week. In addition they give concerts both in the Cathedral and elsewhere in Britain. Sometimes the group augments there numbers when certain musical works require a larger number of voices. The group's choiristers all attend The Pilgrims' School where they study singing, music theory, music history, and at least one instrument in addition to general academic studies. The lay clerks are all experienced musicians who work in the fields of composing, conducting, music therapy, arts administration and teaching. Traditionally this was the preserve of boys until, in 1999, a separate treble line was formed, giving local girls the opportunity to share in this rare privilege.
In May 1996 the Winchester Cathedral Choir took part in a performance of Arvo Pärt's Passio in London's Brompton Oratory and will be singing in a BBC Promenade Concert with the Choir of New College, Oxford, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in August this year. In recent years they have undertaken tours of the USA, Australia and Brazil singing repertoire ranging from Taverner, Weelkes and Byrd to Herbert Howells, Leighton and Tavener.
Their many recordings for Hyperion, Virgin Classics and Decca include discs of English music by Purcell, John Blow, Tye, Tallis, Stanford, Parry and Edward Elgar. Hyperion will shortly be issuing a recording of the Mass for Five Voices for the feast of Corpus Christi by William Byrd, recorded in 1995. The Winchester Cathedral Choir have also recorded works by Delius with the Waynflete Singers and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and will be making a disc of French choral music for Virgin Classics this summer.
The glorious heritage of church music in England is truly one of its greatest treasures, and to be a part of its continuation is an experience of great importance for every one of the members of the foundation. More recently the Winchester Cathedral Choir has had a wider ministry. Their regular broadcasts on BBC Radio, international touring, an extensive discography of a wide range of music, and appearance in concerts locally and nationally have all been highly acclaimed.
Martin Neary was Director of the the Winchester Cathedral Choir from 1972 to 1987. The Choir is currently directed by Andrew Lumsden who assumed the post in 2002. The Organist and Master of Music, David Hill, is one of Britain's leading vocal trainers and choral conductors, and the Sub-Organist, Stephen Farr, has recently been appointed, having previously been Sub-Organist at Christ Church, Oxford.