Voices were once again united in celebration at the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival last weekend.

Hosted by Canterbury Christ Church University as part of their Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it was the first time since the pandemic that universities from the Cathedrals Group were able to come together in person for its annual festival. Over 200 staff and students from ten member universities gathered at Canterbury Cathedral to celebrate their church foundation through music.

The festival draws on the rich history of choral singing at the Cathedral Group institutions - universities founded by the church for the purpose of training teachers and based on the principles of widening access and breaking down barriers in education.

The 15 members are now multi-disciplinary universities and key contributors in ensuring that higher education in England and Wales is diverse and inclusive.

Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “After three years apart we were delighted to welcome fellow Cathedral Group staff and students to the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral for a celebration of music. There is special significance for us to host the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival this year, as 2022 marks 60 years since our foundation.

“The talent and togetherness displayed by the choirs and musicians at this weekend’s festival characterises the member institutions and their celebratory spirit. We look forward to many more years of joining together in celebration.”

To be able to take part in a festival that features other like-minded people has been a privilege. The immense sound we created was a testament to the work put in by every choir and choir director. The concert was beautiful, and truly unforgettable.

Lizzie Read, third year BA (Hons) Music student and the University Chapel Conducting Scholar.
The choirs and musicians of the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival 2022 in Canterbury Cathedral
The choirs and musicians of the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival 2022

The festival included performances by the choirs and musicians of members’ universities, representing a variety of musical styles. The ten choirs also combined their talents to perform a spectacular showcase of four movements of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, originally written for St Mark's Basilica in Venice. The final movement, the Magnificat, provided the opportunity for an astonishing display of talent and technique, making full use of the wonderful spaces and acoustics of Canterbury Cathedral’s Nave.

In any environment, choirs are the beating pulse of a community, and this is no different to the community at Canterbury Christ Church University. From singing at the University graduations to the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival, all held in the glorious Canterbury Cathedral, the whole experience is one which never gets boring or even feels like a chore. To be given these opportunities whilst on our individual learning journeys at university and to be part of a group that really does feel like a family, is an immense privilege and one which I am sure will stay with me, and all of us, for years to come.

Luke Phillips, first year BA (Hons) Primary Education
Dr Christopher Price conducting in Canterbury Cathedral
Dr Christopher Price conducting at the Cathedrals Group Choir Festival.

Dr Christopher Price, Director of Music at Canterbury Chris Church University, said: “It was a privilege to work with nine other Directors of Music and their choristers, some students, some clearly drawn from a wider community, in this great event. Their musical contributions were outstanding, both individually as singers and as separate choirs performing a piece each, and collectively, as part of the larger ensemble re-interpreting the glorious sonorities of Monteverdi's Vespers, spread around different parts of the Cathedral, just as he would have done in St Mark's, Venice in 1610.

“The tremendously generous-spirited nature of everyone's participation profoundly impressed me. Clearly, they had not just been learning the notes; on display was a love of the collaborative spirit of music and the making of it. The result was an immersive, captivating performance of which we may all feel proud.

“I told the singers before the concert, that these events make lifelong memories. For many of us, the 2022 Cathedrals Group Choirs Festival will be a joyous highlight.”

I really enjoyed taking part in the festival this weekend. It was amazing to be singing in the Cathedral with other university students from up and down the country. I don’t think I had realised the impact the last few years have had, and how much we have missed out on, until given this opportunity to sing again this weekend.

Annabelle Bennett, second year medical student at Kent and Medway Medical School