THE first girls’ choir to be formed by a University of Oxford college sang its inaugural evensong on Wednesday of last week. Merton College established a choir for girls aged between nine and 15 this spring, after years of discussion.
Previously, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, was the only Oxbridge college to have a girls’ choir.
The girls, who come from eight schools around Oxford, rehearse twice a week, and will sing one service a week during term time.
The Chaplain at Merton, Canon Simon Jones, said: “The motivation in setting up the girls’ choir was to give girls some of the same opportunities for singing within a collegiate setting that, for centuries, boys have had, and to provide a new means by which the College can engage with the local community.
“Merton’s Choral Foundation is itself very new: it was set up in 2008. At that time we had the idea of extending it to include school-age girls, but couldn’t explore the feasibility of doing so until Benjamin Nicholas took up his full-time post as Merton’s Organist and Director of Music.
“We’re delighted that the College’s enthusiasm for the new choir has been matched by that of local schools, and of the girls themselves and their families.”
He said their first evensong was a great success, being sung to 160 people, including the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson. The girls were presented with certificates to mark the occasion.
The Warden of Merton, Sir Martin Taylor, said: “I am thrilled that we are enhancing our Chapel music programme by setting up the Merton College Girls’ Choir. This is an historic moment in our long history, and provides a wonderful opportunity for girls to take part in the musical life of Merton College.”