top of page


“The best theologians are musicians.  And Christianity is always better sung than said.  To the extent that all religion exists to make raids into what is unsayable, the musicians penetrate further than most.”

Giles Fraser

At St Mary's Cathedral, music is at the heart how we praise and worship God, from the hymns we sing together on Sunday mornings, to the organ voluntaries which end services, to the various other choirs and groups which sing and play at the Cathedral.

In particular, we are very proud of our choir and their part in our services.  Singing together six times every week during term, they lead and magnify our prayers, and form a part of training the future generations of church musicians and Christians.

The Choir of St Mary's Cathedral

The Choir of St Mary’s was founded in 1879 to provide choral music for the daily services at Edinburgh’s new St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, with its own choir school.  This tradition, of singing regular weekday and Sunday services in the Cathedral, continues to this day, the only place in Scotland to do so.

P Backhouse-7753 smaller_edited.jpg
P Backhouse-7818_edited.jpg
P Backhouse-0055.jpg
Joining the Choir

The choir is made up of three groups of singers: the choristers, the choral scholars, and the lay clerks:

The Organ

The Organ at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, was built by Henry Willis in 1879. The case was designed by John Oldrid Scott (son of Sir Gilbert Scott, the Cathedral’s architect) and was made by Farmer and Brindley of London. The console was originally situated within the case; however, a moveable, detached stop-key console was provided by Robert Hope-Jones in 1897 when the electropneumatic mechanism was installed, replacing the original tracker (with pneumatic lever) action. Hope-Jones also made preparations for additions to the organ at this point (including extra ranks in the West End and Sanctuary, as well as expanding the existing divisions), however, these were never applied and the original tonal resources remained untouched.

P Backhouse-754244.jpg
P Backhouse-0255 (copied from Covid Requiem rehearsal).jpg
Music Staff

The music team at St Mary's is made up of the Organist and Master of the Music, the Assistant Master of the Music, and the Lay Clerks who sing in the choir.

Concerts at St Mary's

St Mary's Cathedral hosts many concerts throughout the year, across all genres. Click below to read more about what's on.

The Chapter House Singers

The Chapter House Singers is a group of around 35 amateur singers, formed to sing services when the main choir is away on holiday. They also perform two concerts a year; for instance, in October 2022 they performed Vivaldi's Gloria and Jonathan Dove's Koethener Messe (a Scottish premiere).  The Music Director is Les Shankland.  Anyone interested in joining should contact Pauline Graham by email: or via the Cathedral Office. For more information and news, please visit the Chapter House Singers' own website at

Former Choir Members

At the Cathedral, we are always keen to hear from former choristers and lay clerks. If you would like to be contacted about any upcoming events and reunions, and for occasional updates on what the current choir is up to (e.g. details of concerts, tours and recordings), please do give your details below. All information will be held confidentially, used only for this purpose, and can be removed at any time if requested.

Cath Int. 6x4  03_09 067.jpg
P Backhouse-4429.jpg
Visiting Groups

When the main Cathedral Choir is on holiday, we welcome visiting choirs from the UK and further afield to sing services. If your choir is interested in this, please email for more information. If you are interested in hiring the Cathedral for a concert throughout the year, or using the Cathedral buildings or grounds for an event, please see our information at Concert and Event Hire.

Supporting our Music

Running a Cathedral Choir is an expensive operation. If you would like to support the music and worship at St Mary's, please do get in touch.

bottom of page