Magdalen College was founded in 1458 by William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester. There has been a choir since 1480, when provision was made for eight clerks, four chaplains and sixteen choristers. With the more recent addition of four clerks and two organ scholars, that tradition is maintained to this day. Apart from singing daily services, the Choir regularly performs at home and abroad. UK appearances include performances for royalty, notably for Prince Charles at Highgrove House. In 1999 they made their debut in the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Proms, and in October 2001 appeared at the Royal Festival Hall. In recent years the Choir has performed in the USA, Hungary, France, Japan, and the Caribbean. The Choir has also featured on film and television, most notably in Richard Attenborough’s acclaimed move, Shadowlands. Other soundtracks and appearances include 20th Century Fox’s Ever After and Channel Four’s millennium production, Longitude. Their long association with composer George Fenton continues with the title music for the remarkable BBC TV natural history series, The Blue Planet. In November 2001 they presented the first public performance of Ecce Cor Meum, a new choral work written especially for them by Sir Paul McCartney.
The Director of Music still retains the ancient Latin title, Informator Choristarum, the first of whom was appointed in 1481. Many notable musicians have held this post, including John Sheppard, Daniel Purcell (brother of Henry), Sir John Stainer, Sir William McKie and Bernard Rose. More recent alumni include Ivor Novello (a Chorister), Dudley Moore, Harry Christophers, John Mark Ainsley and Robin Blaze.
During the university term the choir maintains the seven choral offices each week. Beyond the confines of the Chapel, the Choir maintains a busy life of its own. As well as regular broadcasts and recordings, recent concert tours have taken the Choir to many parts of Europe and also to the USA and Japan. In 1999 they made their first appearance at the BBC Proms. They have also recorded film soundtracks, most notably Shadowlands (1993) and Ever After (1998). Last year they appeared in the Channel 4 millennium production, Longitude, and have recently recorded the title music for a forthcoming BBC documentary series, The Blue Planet, to be shown later this year.
The Informator, Grayson “Bill” Ives, is perhaps best known as a former member of The King’s Singers, with whom he worked for eight years. During that time he appeared on concert platforms all over the world, with a busy schedule on radio and television and in the recording studio. He left the group in 1985 in order to concentrate on a freelance career, mainly as a composer and arranger. Notable compositions include a setting of the Te Deum (1991), written for the enthronement on George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury. In the same year he was appointed Organist, Informator Choristarum and Tutor in Music at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Working closely with the choir is the one of the music staff at Magdalen, the distinguished scholar David Skinner. Originally from California has been resident in Britain since 1987. He took his MMus at Edinburgh University in 1988, and in 1995 gained a doctorate from Oxford University where he sang in the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral under Stephen Darlington.
Active also as a freelance singer, music editor, and producer (he has produced Magdalen’s new CD Songs of Angels), David has sung with a number of specialist early music ensembles.
Besides his work with the ensemble Cardinall’s Musick, he has also prepared performing and recording editions for The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen.
David is a committee member of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society and Early English Church Music. He has published widely on music and musicians of late medieval England, and is presently writing a book on the college at Arundel, to be published by Oxford University Press.
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