What is the Monteverdi Choir?
Our guide to one of the choirs that will be performing at King Charles's coronation on 6 May 2023
What is the Monteverdi Choir?
The Monteverdi Choir is a specialist Baroque ensemble encompassing music from the Renaissance period to Classical music of the 20th century.
Who conducts the Monteverdi Choir?
The Monteverdi Choir is conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who founded the ensemble.
When and why did he found it?
Gardiner, one of the best conductors in the world, founded the choir in 1964 for a performance of Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, where he was studying History as an undergraduate. The aim was to introduce the colour of Italian music to audiences accustomed to the English choral tradition.
Since then Gardiner’s ensembles have expanded to include the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestra Révolutionnaire et Romantique.
How did the Monteverdi Choir become so well-known?
They gave their first London concert at Crosby Hall, Chelsea in 1966, where their passion, virtuosity and strong sense of rhythmic propulsion immediately grabbed the public’s attention. Within two years they were asked to give a performance at the BBC Proms, and from then on rapidly cemented their position as one of the best choirs in the country, working at the forefront of the Early Music revival.
What repertoire do they sing?
A huge range, from well-known works by Monteverdi, Handel, J.S Bach and Mozart to lesser-known offerings from Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Schütz, Buxtehude, Carissimi, Campra and Leclair.
Is this the first time they have performed for King Charles?
No. As an early music enthusiast, who even sang with The Bach Choir for a time, King Charles has long been the Monteverdi Choir’s patron, and in 2014 the choir performed at a gala performance at Buckingham Palace. They performed again at the Palace in 2017.
What will they perform at the coronation?
Although the details of what they will perform have not been released, we know that they will open the celebrations on 6 May, shortly before the king’s arrival at Westminster Abbey. They will also sing throughout the Coronation Service alongside the Choir of Westminster Abbey and The Choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, together with girl choristers from the Chapel Choir of Methodist College, Belfast and Truro Cathedral Choir.
On being asked to perform at the Coronation, Gardiner commented: ‘It is a tremendous honour to have been asked by His Majesty to open the musical proceedings at his Coronation on Saturday 6 May.
'As the former Prince of Wales, His Majesty has been a keen supporter and patron of the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique ever since he attended the launch of our Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 1999.
'This invitation is therefore a symbol of his continuing support and royal patronage as well as of the personal friendship he has extended towards me. Vivat Rex!’
Photo: Max Aquila
Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.