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U is for…University College, Oxford

Today, 21 December, we feature two ‘U’s: University College Oxford and their director, the singer Giles Underwood.

View our complete Advent Calendar here

The Chapel Choir of University College, Oxford is a mixed choir not only of choral scholars and volunteers, but also of undergraduate and postgraduate members. The choir sings once a week during University term but rehearses twice a week in addition to the Sunday service.

They have just completed their Michaelmas term, culminating in three Advent Carol services and one Christmas Carol service.

In all the music this year they have been championing, and will continue to champion, music by women.

This is primarily to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the acceptance of women undergraduates to the College, but also, and more generally, because music by women have been neglected by the choral music establishment until very recently.

Over the course of the term they have sung music by Amy Beach, Kerensa Briggs, Sarah Cattley, Janette Fishell, Imogen Holst, Sasha Johnson Manning, Cecilia McDowall, Elizabeth Poston and Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Next year they will be including Judith Bingham, Claire Liddell, Sarah MacDonald, Thea Musgrave, Roxanna Panufnik, Judith Weir, Janet Wheeler and many others among that roster.

The choir has also been using other musicians in the College to help with music in their services, most notably harp in movements from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols in their Advent services and trumpets in ‘Sleepers! Wake’, by Mendelssohn.

Listen to the choir perform a carol by a former member Jonathan Lane (1977), a setting of the medieval text, ‘There is no Rose of Such Virtue’.

December 21st finds all choral duties over and the College is quiet, resting before the return of the students in January.

And what of Giles Underwood?

He writes:

‘My December has also finished, busy as I have been since the end of term with auditions at the Royal Academy where I teach three days a week during term. My last performance of the year is over and I’m very happy to be having a rest from Messiahs and Christmas Oratorios for another year.’

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