When William of Wykeham founded Winchester College in 1382 he made provision for 16 boys called Quiristers to sing the Chapel services. The School has maintained its mediaeval choral foundation for more than 600 years and today this lies at the heart of a flourishing choral tradition, notable for its excellence and diversity. There are two Chapel Choirs, a Choral Society (Glee Club), a Close Harmony Group (Cantores Episcopi) and numerous ad hoc choral ensembles. Four singing teachers give individual tuition and there are regular productions of musicals and operas.
Chapel Choir sings a full range of choral services in the College Chapel. The treble line is provided by the Quiristers, who also sing a good deal in their own right as a boys' concert choir; the lower parts in the Choir are sung by senior pupils and one or two dons, many of whom have themselves been Quiristers, or choristers at cathedrals and other choral foundations. The Choir gives recitals, broadcasts and records for BBC Radio and Television, and makes regular tours abroad, most recently to USA and Hong Kong. The Quiristers' programme includes several concerts each year in aid of local and national charities. Past Quiristers have been particularly successful in the BBC Young Chorister of the Year Competition. Information on choir recordings. The Director of Chapel Music is Malcolm Archer whose website is www.malcolmarcher.com.
St Michael's Choir draws its membership predominantly from boys in their first two years at the School, and sings at services in the Chapel and St Michael's, between which two places full School services are held. It is directed by Nicholas Wilks, the Master of Music. Using a repertoire chosen to suit changing voices, St Michael's Choir provides an opportunity for boys to sing to a high standard at a crucial stage in their development, taking part in concerts and tours as well as services. Over 100 boys sing in Chapel Choir and St Michael's Choir, and the two choirs combine on major occasions.
Glee Club, the College Choral Society, is open to all without audition, and includes parents, staff and friends of the College as well as boys. With over 100 voices, it usually gives two concerts each year, one of which it combines with Winchester Music Club and Orchestra in Winchester Cathedral. Recent performances have included Bach's Magnificat, Britten's War Requiem, Handel's Messiah and Mozart's Requiem. Operas and musicals, involving large casts and professional soloists, are staged in New Hall and Queen Elizabeth II Theatre, and some of our music theatre is produced and directed with great success entirely by boys. L'Elisir d'Amore, The Hired Man and Guys and Dolls are among the most recent productions.
The House Singing Competitions, held in February, are keenly contested and provide an occasion for many boys to sing together both in unison and harmony. Solo singers regularly perform at the Chamber Music concerts and at the Songfest which takes place each summer term. The boys' enthusiasm for choirs and singing is reflected in University applications; during the last ten years Winchester College pupils have won 40 choral and organ
scholarships, principally to Oxford and Cambridge.