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A BEACON OF LIGHT
Newcastle Cathedral choir
Newcastle Cathedral Choir is renowned for high standards of music within the liturgy. It consists of two separate and independent choirs of young singers (trebles) – up to 24 boys and 24 girls. The choristers attend various schools across the city. There is a back row of six professional singers (the Lay Clerks) augmented by Choral Scholars who will usually be students at one of Newcastle’s universities.
As well as singing at the daily office, the choir tours internationally (Belgium in 2018, and France in 2015 are most recent examples), and recent concert performances include Handel’s Messiah with the period instruments of St Nicholas Baroque, James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and popular concerts with the New Tyneside Orchestra and Dunston Silver Band. On Christmas Eve 2018 the choir was featured on BBC Radio 4 singing a newly-discovered carol for the first time in some 500 years.
The present Cathedral Choir is the continuation of the long and distinguished tradition of music at Newcastle Cathedral and (prior to being granted cathedral status) St Nicholas Church. In 1503, Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII and engaged to marry James IV of Scotland, passed through Newcastle, noting in her journal a number of children in surplices “who sang melodious hymns, accompanying themselves with instruments of many sorts”.
Perhaps the most notable Organist and Master of the Choristers was Charles Avison (1709-1770). He was a highly respected musicologist and composer, particularly famous for his concerti grossi and providing a verse anthem for the Coronation of King George III in 1761. For more information about the continuing choral tradition at Newcastle Cathedral, please email here.