St John’s College Cambridge mixed choir is being disbanded

The decision means female sopranos will no longer be able to sing in any chapel services

Cambridge University’s St John’s College has announced that its mixed choir is being disbanded at the end of next term. The move will also result in the redundancy of the group’s musical director, Graham Walker.

The mixed-gender choir, St John’s Voices, was formed in 2013 to complement The Choir of St John’s College Cambridge, one of the UK’s finest choirs which has been unaffected by the decision.

In October 2021, it was announced that the main choir would have female chorister and altos, making St John’s the first Oxbridge choir to have both boys and girls singing services together. According to Slippedisc, the decision has prompted the college’s master, Heather Hancock, to decide there is no need for a separate mixed choir.

However, there are concerns for how the disbandment of St John’s Voices will limit the musical opportunities for women at the college. The decision means that soprano undergraduates will no longer be able to sing in chapel choral services, since the main choir only admits female altos, with younger boys and girls singing the treble line.

Scarlett and Mary, the Co-Presidents of St John’s Voices, have told The Cambridge Tab they are “devastated” at the college’s decision to disband the choir.

Commenting on the implications for female singers, they said: “St John’s College has a near 400 year history of choral music, only 10 of which have included women since the creation of SJV. A British choral tradition with equal opportunities is something that St John’s should be championing, not looking to diminish.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see what has been a remarkable step forward in the choral world, namely the admission of female singers into the College Choir, being weaponised against the very existence of another ensemble to ultimately reduce access to high quality music making and drastically reduce the participation of women in the life of the chapel.”


In a post on the social media platform X, the choir commented: “We were devastated to hear yesterday that the college has decided to disband SJV at the end of this academic year. We are so proud of what we have achieved and will miss singing together every Monday.”

Featured image credit: Krystian Data 

Related articles recommended by this author: