The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge has one of the most ancient histories of any musical organization, actually predating the founding of the College itself by 229 years.
King's Hall was established as a college at Cambridge by King Edward II in 1317 and incorporated as such by Edward III in 1337. Under Edward II, when boy singers (or "choristers") left the choir of the Chapel Royal after their voices broke, they were enrolled in theRead more King's Hall to continue their academic studies as a reward. Music was one of the disciplines of the King's Hall, and history's first Doctorate of Music was conferred in 1461 on a member of King's Hall, Thomas. St Just. (King's Hall was distinct from King's College, another Cambridge institution, founded by Henry VI.)
In 1546 King Henry VIII decided to establish a new college, Trinity College, which he intended to be the largest at Cambridge, by amalgamating King's Hall with Michaelhouse, a very small college founded in 1324 by Edward II's Chief Justice, Hervey de Stanton. It took the property of King's Hall and an endowment provided by property taken from some Catholic monasteries. Henry's successor, Queen Mary Tudor, ordered the construction of a new chapel on the site of the medieval King's Hall Chapel. It was completed during the reign of Elizabeth II in 1567. It includes two very old "Father Smith" organs (1694 and 1708), in their restored original cases. Mary Tudor in 1553 established the chapel choir with ten choristers, six lay-clerks, four priests, an organist, and a schoolmaster.
Trinity College became known for producing poets and other literary figures and scientists. Over the years these have included Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Rutherford, Dryden, A.A. Milne, A.E. Houseman, Byron, and six of the translators of the King James Bible. It was not especially well known for musicians, with the notable exception of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Villiers Stanford, who attended the place at the same time. In the late 1890s Trinity College closed its choir school and relied on boy trebles drawn from a local grammar school to join the undergraduate lay-clerks in chapel services, which continued under conductors Alan Grey and Hubert Middleton until the 1950s. At that time the traditional men-and-boys constitution of the Chapel Choir was replaced by a larger choir of undergraduate men by director of music Raymond Leppard.
In 1982, a few years after Trinity College started admitting women, the Choir was re-formed as a mixed chorus comprising 24 choral scholars (students who, after passing a competitive audition, receive tuition to the College in exchange for singing at chapel services during the school term). As such, it is ironically one of the least traditional of British college chapel or church choirs. Read less
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