The Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral is unique in Scotland in maintaining daily choral services in the Anglican tradition, and enjoys an international reputation. The Cathedral was the first in the United Kingdom to allow girls to join boys as trebles in 1978 and then, in 2006, to allow female altos to sing alongside countertenors in the choir. The choristers (aged 9-14) are educated at St Mary’s Music School, Scotland’s specialist music school, while the lay clerks of the choir consist of university choral scholars alongside more experienced singers. In 2008 the thirtieth anniversary of the successful admission of girl choristers into the choir was marked by an article and editorial in The Times. Each morning the choristers rehearse at 8.25am for an hour before going to school. They then return in the evening for rehearsal at 4.55pm alongside the lay clerks before singing a service at 5.30pm.
In addition to its day-to-day commitments, the choir broadcasts regularly on radio and television. Recent broadcasts include a Classic FM Christmas Concert, broadcast on Christmas Eve in 2008, and a BBC Songs of Praise at Christmas 2009. During the Edinburgh Festival, Europe’s biggest festival of its kind, the Choir is in residence, singing the daily services and at a number of high-profile concerts and broadcasts. During the 2010 Festival the Choir performed Handel’s Messiah with period ensemble Ludus Baroque while each year the BBC broadcasts a live Choral Evensong from the Cathedral during the Festival period. Other recent events include singing at the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy at St Paul’s Cathedral in May 2011.
The choir has an extensive discography. In January 2010 St Mary’s CD of works by the sixteenth-century composer John Taverner was released to great critical acclaim, earning an ‘outstanding’ accolade from International Record Review and five stars from Classic FM Magazine. The CD was number seven in the specialist classical charts. The choir’s most recent CD, Bruckner Motets, was released in March 2011 and again has been extremely successful, earning a Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice with the choir being described by The Times as ‘a choir of humans who sing like angels’. Other works recorded by the choir include the Fauré and Duruflé Requiems, and several premiere recordings of works by James MacMillan, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Gabriel Jackson. A second disc of the works of Gabriel Jackson has recently been recorded and will be released in summer 2012.
Previous choir tours include France, Holland, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, and several trips to the USA and Canada, the most recent being 2008. The choir’s tour to Hong Kong, Taipei, and Tokyo in 2011, at the invitation of the Taipei International Choral Festival and the Little Singers of Toyko, was its first trip to Asia.