Culture Buff

King’s College choristers at ease

27 July 2019

9:00 AM

27 July 2019

9:00 AM

It was a beautiful autumn morning when we went up to Cambridge for a meeting at King’s College. Christopher Hogwood had given me an introduction to Philip Ledger, Director of Music at the College. My purpose was to invite the College Choir to tour Australia for Musica Viva. It was Tuesday 2 November, 1976. That morning, Jimmy Carter was elected President; not necessarily a good omen.

Janet waited in the Chapel while the Choir practised a Palestrina Magnificat. Philip Ledger was friendly but discouraging. The Choir, the most famous in the world, was invited everywhere but could accept few invitations with limited vacation weeks available for touring because the Choir exists to sing services in the gloriously beautiful Chapel, familiar the world over through telecasts of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

What financial conditions were required when the Choir did tour? Well, not many: chaperones travelled to look after the boys who also received daily ‘pocket money’, the adult choristers were paid a (small) performance fee, and of course fares and accommodation had to be provided; that was about it. Surely, the College shared in the financial success of any tour? No, they hadn’t. Well, a more attractive offer was made to our mutual benefit, that’s all it took. Philip Ledger produced a sherry decanter and we toasted the Choir’s first Australian tour which took place in 1980. Now under new Director, Daniel Hyde, the Choir is making its eighth Australian tour.

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