Christ Church is the oldest and best known of Oxford's colleges. The Cathedral began as a monastery founded in the eighth century by St. Frideswide. In 1546, the monastery, after having served as a priory and Cardinal College, was united with the See of Oxford and established as Christ Church Cathedral by King Henry VIII.
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral was founded in 1526 and consists of sixteen boys and twelve men, as well as two organists. Chosen for their musical ability, the boys attend the Christ Church Cathedral School, on its own grounds, near the college. Six of the men, called Academic Clerks, attend Christ Church College and six are professionals, called Lay Clerks; some of England's finest organists have trained at the Cathedral and accompanied the choir.
The choir's history includes a series of illustrious directors, from John Taverner (the very first (appointed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1526) to William Walton (1912-18); Walton composed some of his most famous songs and anthems for the Cathedral Choir. Since its inception, the choir has sung daily services (usually Tuesday through Sunday) in the cathedral and given a large number of concerts and broadcasts for audiences both in England and abroad. The choir's repertoire spans hundreds of years, from the early Renaissance to the end of the twentieth century, and they have commissioned and recorded works by John Tavener, William Mathias, and Howard Goodall. Their award-winning recordings reflect their range of interpretive ability; most notable among them are English Choral Music 1514-1682 and Howard Goodall: Choral works, a recording of motets by J. S. Bach, and Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. The choir's recordings appear on the Nimbus and Metronome labels. Collaborations with organist and composer Howard Goodall have resulted in a number of unusual projects, including theme music for television shows such as Mr. Bean and The Vicar of Dibley.
Referred to as "one of the finest choirs on Earth," the Christ Church Cathedral Choir has become recognized around the globe for its excellence. They have toured extensively in Europe, North and South America, Australia, and the Middle East. Christ Church Choir has collaborated with orchestras such as the ECO, London Sinfonietta, The Hanover Band, The English Concert, and The Academy of Ancient Music. In the year 2000, the choir made its fifth tour of the United States under its present director, Stephen Darlington.