Where can I hear choirs sing?

Some information on where and when you can hear choral services.

In the UK, you are never far from a choir

The UK is unique in maintaining a choral tradition in almost every cathedral in the country.  But it is not only cathedral choirs which sing choral services. Chapel choirs at Oxford and Cambridge Universities sing choral services on a regular basis. Some of the most well known (such as King's College Cambridge and New College Oxford) have children singing the top line, while others (for example, The Queen's College, Oxford) draw their top line from student sopranos. Larger parish churches with SATB choirs will also often sing music of a similar style to a very high standard. At Cathedral Music Trust, we use the term, 'choral foundation' to refer to any place of Christian worship which maintains one or more choirs.

Choral services at parish churches tend to take place on Sunday and, in some cases, once or twice midweek. Cathedral choirs and many Collegiate Foundations usually sing evensong between four and six times a week, and up to sing three services on a Sunday (Matins, Eucharist and Evensong). Foundations vary in their make-up from place to place; each service is different, and many are now streamed. Most cathedrals have boys' and girls' choirs which sing the top line. Usually the boys or the girls will sing with the adult altos, tenors and basses. Sometimes a service will be sung by only the adult choir members. On special occasions, the boys and girls may sing together with an augmented 'back row'.


It is free to attend

Although some cathedrals charge a fee to enter the building, it is always free to attend a service. Times and days of services can be found on each choral foundation's individual website. It is always worth checking these in advance as services often vary depending on the season of the year and on whether the day is, for example, a saint’s day or a holy day. The foundation's own choir usually only sings during academic term time (with the exception of Christmas and Easter). Services around these two Christian festivals can be very busy. There will be music at all sung services but more dramatic and impressive music is generally to be heard during the most attended services, normally those at weekends and on the major saints’ days.


Christmas and Easter

Christmas and Easter are the busiest times of year for choral foundations. Every cathedral will have at least one service of lessons and carols in the lead-up to Christmas, and some will have several. Many also have a special children’s service at which only the top line (usually the boys’ choir or the girls’ choir or both) will sing. 

Holy Week usually involves special choral services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Listening online

Making use of excellent recording technology now available, many choirs occasionally stream their services, and some do this every day. Check individual websites, for example Exeter Cathedral and New College Oxford to listen at your convenience.

The service of Choral Evensong is popular everywhere. To find where it is taking place near you, log on to choralevensong.org. This site also contains a lot of useful information.


BBC Choral Evensong 

BBC Choral Evensong is the longest running outside broadcast programme, transmitted every Wednesday at 3.30pm and repeated on Sunday afternoons at 3pm. The service mostly comes live from a cathedral, church or chapel across the UK, though occasionally archive services are used. Several episodes are available on the BBC Sounds website for one month each, along with a variety of clips from different services.


Concerts and recordings

As well as a busy schedule of services, most choral foundations give concerts, particularly at Christmas and Easter. Many also make commercially available recordings, many of which are available on music streaming services.