There is a strong musical tradition at the Minster. The building has the largest collection of medieval musician carvings in Europe, a 250 year old organ built by Snetzler, a choral tradition going back to the plainsong of the medieval Vicars Choral, and currently a flourishing diversity of traditional and contemporary music under the Director of Music Robert Poyser, who was appointed in March 2009.
History of the choir
When the present Minster was built in the 13th century, the chancel (or quire), which accommodated the choir, was constructed first in order that services could be conducted with music.
Daily services continued to be sung until the Reformation. In 1531, records show that a John Merbecke was listed as receiving payment ‘in reward for songs by him given to the church’. He later moved to St George’s Chapel, Windsor, to become a ‘singing man’ and one of two organists. He collaborated with Archbishop Cranmer to publish his ‘Book of Common Prayer Noted’ (i.e. set to music).
After the Dissolution in 1548 the Minster was re-established as a Parish Church. Since this time the Minster Choir, despite its amateur status, often reaches the performing standard of many a cathedral choir and has broadcast on several occasions.
This photograph of the choir was taken in 1933 showing the organist and choirmaster Dr John Camidge. He retired in 1933 at the age of eighty.