Founded in the 1670s, The Choir of St John’s is known internationally for its broadcasts, concert tours and more than 100 recordings. Currently, the choir is made up of around 20 choristers, who join from the age of eight, and 16 adult choral scholars who are largely students at St John’s College, one of the 31 constituent Colleges of the Cambridge University. The choir takes part daily Evensong services and Sung Eucharist on Sundays during university term.
The decision to admit girls and women means the choir will be unique in a Cambridge or Oxford College – no other choir of its kind combines the voices of males and females in both adults and children.
Spearheading the move to admit girls and women, Andrew Nethsingha, former organ scholar at St John’s, has directed the choir for 14 years. Nethsingha, who has a reputation for encouraging young singers, championing contemporary music and commissioning new work from established and emerging composers, said: ‘Providing an opportunity for girls and women to sing as members of The Choir of St John’s is a very exciting development for the choral tradition of the College. Choral singing is a specialised art form, and our choir has played a formative role in the careers of many globally recognised musicians.
‘Extending membership to talented female singers creates an exceptional new musical opportunity for women and girls, as our much loved choir continues to make a highly valued contribution to the musical life of St John’s and the wider world.
‘I hope this small step will bring the day closer when there is gender equality amongst composers, organists and conductors, as well as among politicians, business leaders and in all other walks of life.’
The inclusion of girls and women will begin in 2022. Men and women will be largely recruited to the choir from the student body of the College. Choristers – who will include girls – come to Cambridge from a wide variety of backgrounds and scholarships are provided to support their education so that no child is prevented from joining the choir on financial grounds.
Evensong at St John’s College, Cambridge, is sung daily at 6.30pm during university term-time. It is free and open to all.