Chapel & Choir

The College Chapel

The College Chapel dates back to the end of the thirteenth century and stands at the heart of our ancient College as a witness to Christian worship over almost 750 years. Today the Chapel is home to a lively and diverse Christian community which continues this faithful offering of worship with daily services during term time. Visitors are welcome to join members of the College at all our services.  Each year a number of Mertonians get married here, and the Chapel is also a popular venue for concerts and plays.  To find out more, contact the Chaplain, Simon Jones.

Information about booking the Chapel for concerts and recordings is available to download. For any further enquiries, please contact the Chapel Administrator.

The Chapel Bells

The Chapel bells were cast by Christopher Hodson in 1680. They are the oldest complete ring of eight by one founder in existence. The tenor weighs 24 hundredweight and is tuned to E♭. One or two bells are tolled before every service in the Chapel. All eight are rung on a number of special occasions in the year, including Remembrance Sunday (half-muffled), Shrove Tuesday (when the College commemorates the Founder, Walter de Merton), HM The Queen's Official Birthday, and at weddings. They are normally rung by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers.

Listen to the Chapel bells, featured on BBC Radio 4's Bells On Sunday programme:

The Choir of Merton College

The Choir of Merton College is one of Oxford’s leading mixed-voice choirs and sings the services, during term-time, in the thirteenth century chapel. The choir consists of thirty undergraduates and post-graduates, many of whom hold choral scholarships at Merton College. Tours have included France (2009, 2010 and 2011), the USA (2011 and 2014) and Sweden (2013). Recent performances have included Duruflé’s Requiem in the Cheltenham Music Festival, Tallis's Spem in alium in the Beaujolais Festival, Mozart's Requiem in St Germain-des-Prés, Paris, Orff’'s Carmina Burana in the St Jude's Proms, the première of David Briggs's Messe Solennelle in St Paul’s Cathedral and concerts in Cadogan Hall and St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. The choir plays a leading role in the annual Passiontide at Merton festival, including performances of Bach's St John and St Matthew Passions, Handel's Messiah and Arvo Pärt's Passio. In the 2014 festival the choir gave the premiere of Gabriel Jackson’s The Passion of our Lord.

The choir's debut CD In the beginning features music by Gombert, Weelkes, Holst, Copland and Jackson and was named 'Gramophone Choice' in the December 2011 edition of GramophoneAdvent at Merton was released in 2012 and spent six weeks in the specialist classical charts. Merton College Choir has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and in February 2013 was filmed for the BBC series Music & the Monarchy.

The main focus of the choir’s work is the singing of the services in Merton College Chapel where, in addition to Choral Evensong, special services such as the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Carol Services and the Requiem Mass for All Souls have a large following.

In the last few years Merton College Choir has given first performances of new choral works by Judith Weir, John Tavener, James MacMillan, Jonathan Dove, Ēriks Ešenvalds and Cecilia McDowall, and in November 2014 gives the premiere of a new motet by Sir Harrison Birtwistle.  The choir spends 2014 in a ‘new music’ partnership with Choir & Organ magazine, and enjoys a relationship with Faber & Faber as ‘choir in association’.

Press

  • "this choir is a 2008 creation, yet has quickly gained distinction" Sunday Times, December 2013
  • "the superb performances are characterised by a phenomenal sense of control and restraint, with every note carefully crafted and bathed in the radiant acoustic of the college chapel" Church Music Quarterly, March 2014
  • "exquisitely sung" Sunday Times, December 2012
  • "one of the UK's finest choral ensembles" Gramophone, December 2011
  • "outstanding" Guardian, October 2011

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