14 Songs, 48 Minutes

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About New College Choir, Oxford, Edward Higginbottom & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

The Choir of New College, Oxford, is one of the oldest and most illustrious examples of England's rich choral heritage. It is a traditional English college chapel choir, a group of about 36 men and boys whose primary function is singing choral Evensong each day during the school term. It is known for the thorough training of its members and the very wide and diverse repertory it sings in the busy schedule of concert appearances it maintains, aside from its regular singing at worship services.

The number of boy singers (choristers) in the choir has remained constant at 16. They gain appointment through competitive examinations, beginning at age eight, and are given first rate educations at the New College School, in addition to thorough musical and vocal training. It is standard, for instance, for a New College Choir Boy to be able to sing at sight from a Renaissance manuscript, in proper style. The other 14 members of the choir are adults: eight choral scholars, known as "academical clerks," who are students at New College, and six "lay clerks" who are described as being singers from the city. In reality, this last group of six is a fully compensated core group of professional singers who provide stability to the choir. There is a full time voice teacher on the choir's staff, Colin Baldy, whose weekly individual lessons for all the members are part of the compensation for the singer's regular services. The staff is rounded out by the conductor of the choir (Edward Higginbottom) and the "organ scholar," in practice the conductor's assistant, a top organ student at the College. The choir has often performed in London over the years, and in modern times has toured extensively, having visited most major cities in Europe, the US, Australia, and Brazil. It has worked with such leading conductors as Christopher Hogwood, Richard King, and Franz Brüggen. Academical clerks in the choir receive extra compensation for these "extra-curricular" musical events, as they do for participating in the choir's recordings, which number at least seventy compact discs in the active catalogs. This recorded repertory includes Christmas programs and other popular assortments of choral music, as well as music from the Renaissance to the most modern. It includes a large proportion of great English Tudor era music (such as Taverner, Byrd, Gibbons, Tallis), Josquin de Prez, masterworks of the Baroque (Purcell, Allegri, Croft, Locke, de La Lande, and, of course, Handel), and music of great composers of more recent eras (Mozart, Haydn, Fauré, Bairstow, Britten, Samuel Barber, Gorecki, and Tavener).

The singers, including the boys, get opportunities to sing solo performances with the New College's Music Society chamber concert series and in the New Chamber Opera.

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