The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford was founded in 1480 with provision made in the statutes for 16 singing boys, eight Academical Clerks and four chaplains. Magdalen College was then one of the oldest and largest choral foundations in late-medieval England, and this historic legacy has been preserved and maintained over five centuries. The Choir, which now enjoys an international reputation as one of the finest ensembles in the UK, exists primarily to sing the daily church services in Magdalen College Chapel. The Academical Clerks now number 12 and the Consort of Voices was founded in 2010, offering opportunities to women students to sing in the Chapel on a weekly basis. In addition to the regular round of services, the College Choir sing at a number of special occasions throughout the year, including the famous May Day celebrations, an ancient tradition dating back to the 16th century. Famous directors of the Choir who have held the ancient title, Informator Choristarum still in use today, include John Sheppard, Daniel Purcell, Sir John Stainer and Dr Bernard Rose. The current Informator is Mark Williams.
The Choristers are part of the College Foundation, receiving their academic education at Magdalen College School. The Academical Clerks and Organ Scholars are undergraduates at the College, reading for degrees in a variety of subjects. In University Term, the Choir sings Evensong every day except Monday at 6pm. Services on Tuesdays are normally sung by the Choristers alone, on Fridays by the Academical Clerks alone, and on Saturdays by the Consort of Voices. The College Choir also sings the Eucharist (Mass) on Sunday mornings at 11am.
Magdalen College Choir has toured Japan, USA, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France and Poland in recent years; concert appearances have included the BBC Proms and Cadogan Hall. The Choir has worked with a number of leading orchestras including Britten Sinfonia, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. In Oxford, they have collaborated with both composers and musicians in concert and on disc: recordings have included the music of John Ward and Thomas Tomkins with the celebrated viol group, Phantasm, and the work of the renowned composer of sacred music, Matthew Martin. They won a Gramophone award under former director Grayston Ives, and have collaborated with the film composer George Fenton, most notably in Richard Attenborough’s movie, Shadowlands, with the Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney, and on the award-winning soundtrack for the BBC TV series, Blue Planet.