The tradition of singing at New College, Oxford, goes back six centuries to the year 1379 when the College was founded by William of Wykeham. Wykeham, who was Bishop of Winchester and High Chancellor during the reign of Edward III, had a vision of his new college as a place where the country’s administrative class, both lay and religious, would be educated. In the college statutes he made provision for sixteen boy choristers and a number of clerks to have a permanent place in the College to ensure the musical rendition of the daily office, and to pray in perpetuity for the repose of his soul.
Under Edward Higginbottom’s leadership since 1976, the Choir of New College Oxford has gained a worldwide reputation and is known particularly for its stylish performances of Renaissance and Baroque music. Despite this high musical profile, with many recording commitments and a full programme of concerts in this country, on the continent of Europe and further afield, it is still recognisably what New College’s founder, William of Wykeham, envisaged in the fourteenth century: a choir of sixteen choristers and clerks whose duty was, and still is, to provide a sung liturgy in one of the grandest chapels to be built in Oxford.
The Choir has appeared a number of times at the BBC Proms, and in recent years has performed to audiences in Australia, Brazil, Japan, the Low Countries, France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
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