TOGETHER with the other great university city of Cambridge, Oxford boasts the highest concentration of high-quality choirs, singing church music both ancient and modern, anywhere in the English-speaking world. This is no mere window dressing. In the maintenance of the daily round of Mattins and Evensong, the college chapels do much to promulgate a foundational sort of Anglican piety that is quiet, contemplative, and monastic. Adorning such worship with the music written for it is, in the late Erik Routley’s evocative phrase, the “duty and delight” of the various college choirs.
The following series, produced by the University of Oxford, illuminates the extraordinary work of these choirs and of the organists who direct them. Like the Christian life itself, this work demands discipline and dedication if it hopes to approach the sublime, which it often does.