The year 1966 was a major watershed in the history of the London Symphony Orchestra. The oldest of London's full-sized orchestras, founded in 1904, it had never possessed a permanent venue of its own and had long been in uncertain financial and artistic shape. In that year, the Corporation of the City of London committed to building the new Barbican Arts Centre and chose the London Symphony Orchestra (which had seen a vast improvement in standards in a short time) as its permanent residential orchestra. Also in 1966, the London Symphony Chorus was formed as a complement to the LSO. (Prior to then, recordings and concerts featuring a group designated "London Symphony Chorus" usually had an ad hoc chorus, or a chorus provided by such organizations as the Ambrosian Singers, a core group of hundreds of available professional singers.) The London Symphony Chorus comprises over 200 amateur singers from all walks of life. Although it works closely with the London Symphony, it is not organizationally a part of the orchestra (which is a self-governing co-op of its members). The chorus is, instead, a separate self-governing group, whose members choose nine elected representatives to administer it.
In addition to appearing regularly in concerts with the LSO, the chorus is free to appear with other orchestras. The heart of its repertoire is the wide range of twentieth century choral music, including Mahler's three choral symphonies, Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, Britten's War Requiem, Janácek's Glagolitic Mass, and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. It has made over 90 recordings, including Richard Hickox's recording of War Requiem (winner of the Grand Prix du Disque), Bernstein's Candide, and Britten's Peter Grimes (the latter two both Grammy Award winners).
It has a commissioning program, which has led to the writing of such works as Tavener's The Myrrh-Bearer and Peter Maxwell Davies' The Three Kings, a Christmas cantata. It appears in major festivals, and frequently undertakes tours to all parts of the world.