The opening rehearsal took place on a Sunday evening in 1998 in what is now called the Song School and it followed a diocesan-wide, leaflet campaign.
Around 60 singers were auditioned by founder, Stephen Shellard, assisted by Daniel Cook who was the Organ Scholar at the time. Since 2017 he’s been Master of the Choristers at Durham Cathedral and is one of many organ scholars who have gone on from Worcester to achieve great things.
What the slightly nervous 30 singers did not know was that Adrian Lucas, then Master of the Choristers at Worcester Cathedral, was listening outside the door. The music he heard included Bruckner’s ‘Locus iste’ and Stainer’s ‘I saw the Lord’. Thankfully he was pleased with the sound and the Chamber Choir was on its way. It was the first time a Worcester Cathedral choir contained female voices and provided a different and complementary choral resource for both services and concerts.
The first chance for the Cathedral congregation to hear its new choir was in February 1999 when the initial engagement was Choral Evensong followed shortly on Palm Sunday by a Sung Eucharist and Choral Evensong. The music included Haydn’s ‘Little Organ Mass’ and Thomas Weelkes, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ and, of course, ‘I saw the Lord’.
Later in the same year the choir sang Choral Evensong for the opening service of the Three Choirs Festival. It has done so every year since when Worcester has hosted the Festival.
The first concert was given in October 1999 in the Cathedral Chapter house and included Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ and works by Stanford and Elgar.
The following March the choir joined with the Cathedral Choir in the Cathedral to sing JS Bach’s ‘St John’s Passion’ accompanied by the Westminster Chamber Orchestra and the first time that Stephen Shellard had conducted a professional orchestra.
Since then, the choir has sung many services in the Cathedral as well as in churches around the Diocese and beyond, notably including St Bartholomew’s and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin (twice); Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge; Ely Cathedral and St Nicholas, North Walsham in Norfolk.
In 2012 and 2013 the choir provided the vocal backing for a series of mystery plays produced in the cathedral and this in turn resulted in an invitation to provide the choir for Rick Wakeman’s shows in Cheltenham in 2013.
The choir has made seven commercial and some private recordings. Circumstances over recent years mean that it is six years since the latest recording was made, ‘Royal Worcester – music for royal occasions’. It is still available via the Cathedral shop and this website. You can read more details of these and hear some clips on the Audio Clips page. Six of the CDs are available for sale on our Shop page.
Despite the lean years during the worst of the Covid pandemic, the choir continues to thrive. We were able to sing with social distancing for some services in the autumn of 2020 and Christmas 2021. Last Christmas the choir sang to a full Cathedral for the ‘Blue Light’ Carol Service and have already been booked for Christmas 2023.
On 29 April 2023 the choir gave its first concert since before the pandemic. Performed in Worcester Cathedral, the main work was Brahms Requiem which the choir dedicated to all those who died during the pandemic and the loved ones they left behind. We also seized on the theme of hope and thanksgiving to applaud those in our wonderful NHS and other emergency services who selflessly gave and continue to give of themselves for the greater good.
For future plans see the Events Poster Board page.