St John's College, Cambridge makes history as it opens its choir to girls and women for the first time

The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge will become the only Oxbridge college to include male and female adults and children

Published: October 15, 2021 at 12:49 pm

St John's College, Cambridge has announced that it will open its choir up to girls and women for the first time, becoming the first of its kind across both Oxford and Cambridge to combine the voices of male and female adults and children.


St John's is one of the 'big five' Oxbridge choirs (King's College, Cambridge and New College, Magdalen and Christ Church Colleges, Oxford) and is the first to admit women. These five choirs are different from the other Oxbridge college choirs in that they employ their choristers on a full-time professional basis and have attached choir schools. The other college choirs across Oxford and Cambridge simply recruit choristers from other schools on a more part-time basis.

The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge has been in existence since the 1670s, and is made up of around 20 young choristers and 16 adult choral scholars, who predominantly study at the college. Girls and women will be included in the choir from 2022 and will be largely recruited from the student body of the college. The boy and girl choristers will be offered scholarships at St John's College School. The choir will grow in size, with the number of choristers increasing from 20 to 25.


The decision has been spearheaded by the college's director of music, Andrew Nethsingha, who has led the choir for 14 years and is a former St John's College organ scholar. 'I hope this small step will bring the day closer when there is gender equality amongst composers, organists and conductors, as well as among politicians, business leaders and in all other walks of life.'

St John's College Chapel. Credit_ St John's College


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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