The excellent quality of choral music in Cambridge is guaranteed by the larger college choirs of King’s, St John’s, Trinity and Clare. They are the unofficial school for many of the country’s leading choral performers and directors.
The high standards of musicianship and the beauty of the chapels ensure that even a routine weekday evensong – check the noticeboards at college gatehouses to see what’s going on – can be an inspiring experience for the passer-by. At weekends, the choristers often join forces at one venue or another to sing larger-scale works –details are usually posted on the railings around Market Square.
Such an exaggerated concentration of musical talent and educated listeners is great news for the concert-goer. Though Cambridge standards are extremely high, ticket prices are generally very reasonable. However, expect London prices when professional ensembles like The Sixteen come to visit.
It’s a good idea to keep your eyes on performers as well as your well-tuned ears, because some of the names you’ll see on your concert programme are likely to go on to big things. John Eliot Gardiner gave his first concert in Cambridge in 1964 with the Monteverdi Choir, Robert King following suit with the King’s Consort in 1980. Heirs to those names are almost certainly out there at this moment, so make sure you hear them first.
Amateur singers may find so much heavy-duty talent a little intimidating, but singing opportunities for all are abundant. Larger college music societies welcome non-student members, and there is a multitude of local, non-affiliated choirs whose adverts for new members of all abilities and ages can be found pinned to the wall at Brian Jordan Music and Books on Green Street.