I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. Psalms 9:2
The Boys Choir
The achievements of the Boys’ Choir are considerable. Under the leadership of Ian Keatley, Director of Music, it sings consistently to a very high standard throughout the year. In addition, it has recorded a number of CDs and undertaken three tours to the USA and several in Europe.
The Girls Choir
As part of the Millennium Project, marking the year 2000, Southwark Cathedral Girls’ Choir was formed to enrich the Cathedral’s musical heritage and to offer the same opportunity for musical, spiritual and social development which the boys have enjoyed for so long.
There are 27 girl choristers of which 6 are probationers who range in age from 9 to 17, and represent fifteen day schools across London. Not only does the Choir provide a unique musical education (spanning music from plainsong to the present day) for girls as well as boys, it also enables the Cathedral to have choral services more regularly and so continue to minister in a unique way to the people of south London.
During term time the Girls’ Choir rehearses twice a week and sings regularly at Evensong in the Choir and at the Sunday services once a term. They are joined by the Cathedral Lay-Clerks on Mondays and Thursdays, sing at the Consecrations of Bishops, Eucharists and special Diocesan services.
The Choir has toured Norway and the Czech Republic, and performed in Rouen, Rome, Belfast, Paris and Krakow as well as making recordings which have received excellent reviews.
The Men's Choir
There are six Lay Clerks in the Cathedral Choir and up to six Choral Scholars. Three of the Lay Clerks are supported by endowments from The Ouseley Trust; the Vernon Ellis Foundation and the Friends of Cathedral Music.
The Merbecke Choir
The Merbecke Choir is a group of around 25-30 singers who sing a wide range of music to a high standard. The choir is mostly made up of people in their twenties and thirties, who meet to rehearse every Tuesday in term time. It is a regular contributor to the liturgy at Southwark Cathedral, notably at the monthly service of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions. It also performs regular concerts, usually three a year, has toured abroad and in the UK and has released a CD, Under the Shadow of Thy Wings.
In 2003, Southwark Cathedral founded the Merbecke Choir to be a place for boys and girls who had left the Cathedral Choirs to explore a wide range of repertoire under expert tuition. The choir has grown since then and has a broad mix of ages and backgrounds, though former Cathedral choristers remain very welcome.
The choir is a staunch supporter of new music, having commissioned several new works, as well as being adept in the performance of renaissance polyphony. They have performed for the Poet Laureate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, contributed to Her Majesty the Queen's Christmas Broadcast recorded at Southwark Cathedral in 2006 and performed for Songs of Praise recorded in 2017.
The choir’s current director of music is Emily Elias.
The Choir is named after the Tudor composer, John Merbecke (1510-1585), who composed one of the most popular settings of the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. Merbecke with three other companions was tried for heresy in 1543 in the Retrochoir at Southwark, which was used for this purpose at the time. He was found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake. His sentence was commuted however by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the then Bishop of Winchester, who decided that as a mere musician Merbecke 'knew no better' and so was released to continue his music making.
For further information or for further details on how to join the Merbecke Choir or for information on future events please visit their website here
The final element of the music at Southwark Cathedral is the Thursday Singers. This is made up of people from the local community, residents and those in work in the shops and businesses around the Cathedral, who simply enjoy singing. There is no audition, just a love of choral music. The Thursday Singers sing for Festival Eucharists which fall on a weekday and also sing one service of Choral Evensong most terms. They also lead the singing at the Cathedral's Carol Sing-In before Christmas.
If you are interested in joining the Thursday Singers simply turn up at the Cathedral any Thursday in term time at 1.00pm and ask for directions to the Song School. You will be made most welcome.