The Wren Choir

We would like to thank Simon Brown for his ten years conducting the Wrens and hope we can occasionally work with him again in the future. We wish him well in his future projects and interests.

The Wren Choir, also termed "Cambridge's Graduate Choir" meets for rehearsals and performances almost exclusively during the University Vacations, thus is suitable for those who have a link with the University but are now postgraduates or employed full-time in Cambridge or the surrounding area. It is particularly suitable for those who either have a Term-time choir, or heavy teaching commitments during Term which mean they miss out on choir membership entirely. Membership is open to anyone who has a past or present link with the University who is an experienced singer. Ideally, prospective members will have sung in a collegiate choir at some point, prefarably for more than two years, and have good sight-reading skills - but equally important is the willingness to work on music between rehearsals and the desire to improve as well as enjoy singing.

The commitment is low as members sign up to do a particular performance and the associated rehearsals if they are available. People are not blacklisted if they have a couple of busy vacations and can't join in for a while. Rehearsals and most performances take place in Pembroke's "Wren" Chapel, and are always in the evening, normally at 6pm after the working day. The Wrens are social choir, and rehearsals are generally followed by the chance to go to a pub with other choir members.

We do not charge a subscription, but you may be asked to buy music copies, as we do not possess a music library. We try to borrow copies when possible or use legal to copy downloads, but if there is something that we particularly want to perform that we cannot obtain, we may do a bulk order and ask members to purchase their own copy from that bulk order. It would be most helpful if choir members could beg/borrow/steal an academic gown if they don't own one (doesn't need to correspond to the degree you have) to wear at services, as "smart with academic gown" is generally our dress code. Although we are able to borrow two or three, they are all geographically distant and extremely heavy if you are carrying three or four gowns.

If you are interested in being alerted by email to when and where the Wren Choir will next be performing, go to Then follow the instructions to sign up to a low volume email list. An email will be sent out approximately a week before our next performance.

If you are interested in joining the choir, please email Heather Coleman with your voice type and a brief summary of your prior singing experience. Heather is happy to suggest alternative choirs if she feels you do not yet have sufficient experience to enjoy singing with the Wrens. Although it is quite likely we will not sing for the next year and a half, if you have recently arrived in Cambridge and will be here for more than two years and are interested in joining, please do contact us.

Our next performance

We will be back! We fear this may be in 2022 rather than 2021 given current progress in battling this terrible virus.

Recent Activities

Our final activities pre-covid were Christmas carol services at All Saints St Ives and Great Chishill. Then our annual Epiphany Carol Service at All Saints Milton in early 2020. We also sang a choral evensong for Michaelmas just before the 2019 Michaelmas Term began. We had a good congregation for our Holy Week meditation in Pembroke College chapel. We performed works by Viadana and Isaac as well as more familiar offerings. We enjoyed a good congregation for our service of music and readings for Epiphany in All Saints, Milton, which gave an excellent start to 2019.

We enjoyed our garden concert in July in Pembroke Fellows' Garden and the 2018 summer heatwave meant no-one needed as much as a cardigan. We celebrated the feast day of Bishop Lancelot Andrews in September. More recently, many of the choir went to St Swithin's, Great Chishill to sing a Nine Lessons and Carols service. The weather was kinder than in 2017 with no snow storms to risk either choir or large congregation from getting stuck! We sang an Easter Service in Pembroke Chapel in April 2018. The Dean provided some particularly interesting and moving readings to accompany our singing and give both the choir and congregation food for thought.

We did a concert in September 2017 at St Botulph's Church. We then sang our annual Epiphany service at All Saints, Milton in January. In Holy Week 2017, we performed Music from Tudor England, Tallis - Miserere nostri Domine, Sheppard - Libera nos, salva nos, Morley - Nolo mortem peccatoris and a portion of the Tallis Lamentations. In late 2016, we performed services of music and readings in late September, and before Christmas. We had our annual Epiphany service at All Saints, Milton on 8th January 2017. Our service of music and readings for the Easter Season was well received. We also led the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel again for the Society of Mary, which has been an annual event for us in the last few years.

Late 2015 was enjoyable. We had an end-of-summer service at Pembroke and enjoyed a wonderful trip out to Feltwell to sing there in aid of the restoration of St Mary's Church. Many thanks to Frank for driving the minibus and to the church for their amazing hospitality. Our Christmas activities seem to have entered a comfortable pattern. We did a lovely service of readings and carols a couple of weeks before Christmas and then went to visit our friends at All Saints, Milton for Epiphany.

We joined with the Cambridge Branch of the Society of Mary to sing for their annual Solemn Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Little St Mary's. 2015 saw us tackle Vierne's Messe Solennelle, a slight departure from settings we have used in previous years. We sang a post-Easter service in Pembroke Chapel on April 15th 2015, singing a selection of celebratory music which included Byrd - Haec dies, Weelkes - Gloria in excelsis Deo, Tomkins - O praise the Lord, all ye heathen, Wesley - Blessed be the God and Father and Dyson - Let all the world in every corner sing. The Tomkins was a particular challenge which we enjoyed taking! Our Christmas service was in Pembroke Chapel on December 15th 2014. We sang an Epiphany Service at All Saints, Milton on Sunday 4th January 2015. The White Horse again proved suitable for refreshment after our efforts. We also sang an Epiphany Evensong in Christ's College Chapel on Sunday 11th January.

One of the more unusual events we have ever sung at was a historical reenactment. We were asked by a project called "History Needs You" if we could provide a choir to sing evensong at a re-enactment of the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Cambridge 450 years ago, as part of the heritage open days. The Queen's activities began at Great St Mary's from which she processed to St John's College and thence to King's. We were waiting in King's Chapel and upon her arrival sang a Book of Common Prayer evensong for Her Majesty and the assembled party of 16th Century dignitaries and visitors and a full chapel of 21st Century visitors.

We sang a contemplative service entitled "By the Waters of Babylon" in 15th April, in Pembroke Chapel. Music included compositions by Lassus, Palestrina, Boyce, Webbe and Sumsion. We believe this was a Cambridge premiere of Sumsion's "By the Waters of Babylon", and we may be only one of two choirs to currently have this fine piece in their repertoire.

St Mark's Church, Newnham had a "Day of Music" on Saturday 10th May in order to raise funds for the refurbishment of the organ. We were delighted to make a musical contribution to this exciting project, and we sang a selection of madrigals. We enjoyed helping lead the music at a Mass on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Little Saint Mary's on 15th July. We used Schubert in G as the mass setting for this act of worship. We also reprised sections of the Schubert the following Saturday at the licensing service of Father Stephen at St Clements, Bridge Street

Our 2013 Christmas service was in Pembroke Chapel on 18th December, and was a mix of familiar carols, and some lesser-known pieces. We visited All Saints, Milton on Sunday 5th January 2014, to celebrate Epiphany. We then patronised the White Horse in Milton, for a pleasant evening of good food and beer.

Our September 2013 Pembroke Service, with its rather eclectic collection of music with words from the Old Testament was enjoyed by both singers and audience alike. Thanks must go to Pembroke College for being so welcoming to us. We again provided a choir for Pembroke Chapel's first service of the new academic year, as many of the Chapel Choir would only have returned to Cambridge that day. We again provided a choir for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 16th July at Little St Mary's. We sang the Hadyn "Little Organ Mass" as the Mass setting and two Marian motets. Our Easter 2013 service at Pembroke went well and was enjoyed by all who sang at it.

We sang two services during the Christmas Vacation 2012-13. The first was on an evening service of Christmas music and readings on 12th December at Pembroke and the second was an Epiphany Carol Service at All Saints, Milton at 3pm on Sunday 6th January 2013. We enjoyed the time we then spent catching up socially at the White Horse, Milton. We enjoyed singing the music chosen for our somewhat curious "Thanksgiving for Summer" service in mid-September 2012. Music included Byrd, "Sing Joyfully", Stainer, "How Beautiful on the Mountains", Howells, "Like as the Hart" and Rutter, "For the Beauty of the Earth". At least we had had some Summer by the time this event happened, although we still think that Elgar's "As Torrents" was a suitable musical choice. At the very end of September we surprised ourselves by how well we sang on so little rehearsal for Pembroke's first Sunday evensong of the new academic year, followed by a convivial evening at The Hopbine.

We hope those who attended our service at Pembroke on Thursday 26th July 2012 enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed singing it. The theme for this service was "Hear my Prayer": Settings of Classic Christian prayers. Music sung was Almighty and Everlasting God - Gibbons, Ave Maria - settings by both Parsons and Josquin, Let thy Merciful Ears - Mudd, God be in my Head - settings by both Walford Davies and Philip Radcliffe and the Te Deum from Gibbons' Short Service. We provided a choir for a High Mass at Little St Mary's on Monday 16th July 2012. We sang the Byrd Four Part Mass, Parsons Ave Maria and Mozart Sancta Maria K273. During the 2011-12 Christmas Vacation we sang a service at Pembroke on Tuesday 13th December, and a concert in Milton Parish Church on Saturday 14th January. Our 2011 Easter Vacation Service was at Pembroke on 19th April. Music was by Gibbons, Tallis, Dering and Philips.

A brief history of the choir

We were founded by an Australian Pembroke College Graduate Student, Jonathan Wallis. He arrived in Cambridge to start his PhD, joined the chapel choir which he presumably enjoyed, since he was a loyal Chapel Choir member for several years. And thus was perhaps a little perturbed when he was told, in early June, that the next meeting of the choir would be early October! Anyway, he started his own choir, to sing in the vacations in Pembroke Chapel.

We are The Wren Choir as the Chapel is the first building of Christopher Wren, consecrated in 1665, known in shorthand as "The Wren Chapel".

Pub reviews

Recent post-rehearsal Wren Choir pub trips have been to the Hopbine and Barley Ear on Fair Street. Various choir members have been very impressed with the quality of the food and drink, especially the excellent choice of real ales on offer. We were particularly impressed with the friendly and helpful service we got when about twenty of us turned up after the Easter Service all wanting food and drink. Sadly, we note this public house is currently closed.

A recent trip to the newly reopened Haymakers Pub in Chesterton was to the satisfaction of all who attended. Beer, pizzas and customer cycle parking all of high standard.

We enjoy our now-annual trip to the White Horse, Milton, after our Epiphany service. Good food and beer in a convivial atmosphere.

Mailing list policy

You can unsubscribe yourself from the mailing list at any time, either by following the instructions at the bottom of any email, or emailing the list administrator (above) and asking to be unsubscribed. Emails are sent requesting availability for planned gigs, then reminders and further administrative details (dress code, changes to rehearsals etc) nearer the date. As you have expressed an interest in singing by asking to be signed up to the mailing list, occasional emails are forwarded from other choirs who are looking to recruit singers, either for long-term membership or on an ad hoc basis. Often these are choirs which some Wren members already sing with.