Southwark Cathedral Merbecke Choir

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Desmond Tutu joins the Southwark Cathedral Merbecke Choir on stage

The Southwark Cathedral Merbecke Choir was established in late 2003[1] to provide a choir for ex-cathedral choristers (boys and girls) to continue singing. It also comprises other young singers - often ex-choral scholars from university college choirs and student singers based in London.

The Merbecke Choir is the only amateur chamber choir attached to a London cathedral.

The choir is named after John Merbecke, an English theological writer and musician known for producing the a song-noted edition of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. He was tried and convicted of heresy in the retrochoir of Southwark Cathedral in 1543 but received a pardon owing to the intervention of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.

Role at Southwark Cathedral[edit]

The Merbecke Choir is part of the Music Department at Southwark Cathedral. During term time, it sings all the services of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions.[2] Additionally, it sings evensong, when requested, a number of special services and three concerts each year - Christmas, Passiontide and Summer.

Choir Director[edit]

Huw Morgan is the current director of the choir. He combines the post with that of Director of Music at St Laurence's Church, Catford. Formerly, he was Director of Music at All Saints, Blackheath.[3]

The founding director was Ian Keatley, then organ scholar of Southwark Cathedral. He was succeeded by David Pipe[4] in 2006, who left the post in 2008 to take up the position of Assistant to the Director of Music at York Minster in September 2008, and subsequently Assistant Director of Music in September 2010.


The choir's staple repertoire is early European liturgical music. However, for concerts, the music list is typically expanded to include contemporary compositions - including Huw Morgan's The Word of the Cross and first performances of - inter alia - Michael Bonaventure's Doxology in March 2010 and Ian McQueen's English Requiem in March 2012.

Notable Performances[edit]

In December 2006, the Merbecke Choir was broadcast worldwide performing a setting of Ding Dong Merrily On High as the finale to the Queen's televised Christmas message.[5]

In July 2009, the choir gave a concert[6] - "I Sing of a Rose" - in the presence of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Mrs Tutu to commemorate the naming of two new varieties of rose in their honour, and to coincide with the celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the first stone-built London Bridge.[7]

In August 2009, the Merbecke Choir sang for a special choral evensong at Southwark Cathedral to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Marchioness disaster. The service was recorded by the BBC and extracts of the music were broadcast on BBC One on 13 October 2009 in a programme titled "The Marchioness: A Survivor's Story" presented by Jonathan Phang.[8][9][10]

In October 2009, the choir performed for the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he delivered the annual Operation Noah lecture on "The Climate Crisis: A Christian Response".[11]

In March 2011, the choir toured to France, performing in Rouen Cathedral and Église de la Madeleine in Paris on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, before concluding with a home concert in Southwark Cathedral. The tour commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of Tomás Luis de Victoria, one of the great composers of the Renaissance, with a performance of his late masterpiece, the Missa Pro Defunctis of 1608.

In December 2011, the choir sang the Crisis (charity) Carol Service 2011[12] in the presence of Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Bridge October 2003
  2. ^ Southwark Cathedral Music List
  3. ^ St Laurence's Blog - 1 September entry
  4. ^ York Minster - The Organists
  5. ^ Southwark stars in Queen's broadcast
  6. ^ "The Merbecke Choir: I sing of a rose". Southwark Cathedral. 2009-07-11. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. ^ "The Merbecke Choir: Hear Us". Southwark Cathedral. 2009-07-11. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  8. ^ "Marchioness Anniversary Information, Southwark Cathedral". Southwark Cathedral. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  9. ^ "Marchioness river disaster victims remembered". London SE1. 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  10. ^ "BBC One Programmes - The Marchioness: A Survivor's Story". BBC. Retrieved 2009-10-14. 
  11. ^ "Hear Dr Rowan Williams on the climate crisis". Operation Noah. 2009-10-13. Archived from the original on June 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  12. ^ Crisis Carol Service 2011 - now sold out