Collegium Regale (Latin for ‘King’s College’) is the close harmony group made up of the Choral Scholars of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. As Choral Scholars we sing the daily routine of chapel services throughout term as well as undertaking a busy concert and recording schedule in the vacations, often working with leading orchestras notably the Academy of Ancient Music. The Choir is of course most famous for the broadcasts of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on BBC TV and Radio each Christmas, which reach an estimated 120 million people worldwide.
Collegium Regale however functions as a separate entity from the main choir and is run entirely by the members of the group itself. It performs regularly around Britain, touring each Easter in two groups, North and South, and in the past has performed as far afield as Canada, the United States and Hong Kong.
Building on our experience from the main choir, the group has excelled in performance and recording of early renaissance polyphony. Having established a relationship with record label Signum Classics, the group has released a series of discs promoting little known and under-appreciated composers from the European Renaissance. The 2006 recording of music by Orlando Lassus in particular met with great critical acclaim, receiving five star reviews from The Times and The Telegraph, the latter newspaper also listing it in its top ten discs of the year. The 2008 recording of music by Giaches de Wert was similarly well received and is also notable for the fact that much of the music on it was transcribed for the first time by a member of the group making the performances of many of the pieces the first since the late 16th century.
Our traditional repertoire aside, however, Collegium Regale also exists to perform more contemporary material. From spiritual songs to Michael Jackson, these are almost always arranged within the group and give us a chance to sing outside of the ‘classical music’ box. Each summer the group performs this repertoire to around two thousand people on the banks of the Cam and it forms a mainstay of our performance material throughout the year. The group’s recognition as non-classical singers is growing and recent engagements include singing as principal backing vocalists for the English rap artist Dizzee Rascal at the BBC Electric Proms in London, and following on from this for a live session on MTV.
After leaving Kings, many members of Collegium Regale seek to continue a career in music and the group boasts an impressive array of alumni. The baritone Gerald Finley and the tenor Andrew Kennedy are both former members, as is the conductor Sir Andrew Davis and the Director of English National Opera, Edward Gardner. Perhaps the most famous close harmony group in Britain, The King’s Singers, was set up by an especially keen year of Choral Scholars in 1968 and former choral scholars grace the ranks of almost every professional choir in the UK today from The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen and Polyphony, itself set up in Kings in 1986, to the Swingle Singers.
Unlike these groups however Collegium Regale faces a constant challenge that its membership is in a perpetual state of flux. Indeed, as The Times once wrote of us ‘the mystery is how the choir achieves its gorgeous blend with such transitory albeit overlapping personnel’. In some ways this can be a weakness for the group, but in other respects it is a tremendous strength for each year heralds a fresh set of voices and ideas about where the group should go; that it has flourished for so long is testament to its ability to change in new and interesting directions whilst retaining its high standards of musical integrity.