Society Focus: Trinity Hall Chapel Choir

Rhiannon Warren and Thomas (Tom) Wood stand inside Trinity Hall Chapel
Trinity Hall Chapel Choir in Mosta, Malta.

Singing can be its own reward… and the amazing trips abroad, singing support and wonderful socialising make sure those who join the Trinity Hall Chapel Choir have a wonderful time.

As term comes to a close we look at the choir and speak to members Rhiannon Warren and Thomas (Tom) Wood. It is appropriate we speak to them. They are the top and bottom (musically speaking) of the choir: Rhiannon being a soprano and Tom a bass.

A highlight of being a choir member for them both is the annual trip abroad (reinstated last year after a Covid-induced hiatus). “This year we went to Malta and sang in different venues around the island. Last year it was Prague,” says Tom who said that they visited three different churches to perform. Performing a “repertoire of highlights” (or “real bangers” as they jokingly describe performances of their greatest hits) it was great to be in different spaces and perform in front of new audiences.

Audiences can vary in size but can, on occasion, be larger than expected. In Czechia (the destination the year before) the choir found themselves in Roudnice Nad Labem where the large church allowed for a huge audience to gather. “It felt like the entire town turned out,” said Rhiannon.

Trinity Hall Chapel Choir in Mosta, Malta.

The locations make a huge difference to how they sing said Tom: “It can be surprising when you start singing in a big acoustic because Trinity Hall Chapel’s size makes it a fascinating and challenging acoustic.”

This challenge however hones their skills because, in larger spaces small errors can be masked by the acoustics but the College Chapel’s intimate setting means they have to sing at their very best said Rhiannon.

Tom agreed: “You develop a very technical singing style that scales really nicely in big Churches for instance.”

One such instance was the third venue in Malta; the Rotunda of Mosta, which has one of the largest unsupported domes in the world. “You sing a note and stop and continue to hear that note go on for 20 seconds. You have to change the way you sing. It is very rewarding.”

Rhiannon, who is about to complete her MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic joined the choir in her undergraduate years at Trinity Hall, having had a love of singing at school. “What the choir does we do really well but it is not something that takes away all your time: so you have time to study.”

The Choir performs at a level that allows it to produce professional quality albums, as well as perform on the international stage and yet feels welcoming and doesn’t “take your soul” said Tom who had a similar desire to continue singing, post-school.

“You could say I had some negative experiences with music before coming here so when I heard how the choir here operated and how the demands on your time were more reasonable I thought I would give it a go and I am so glad I did!”

They both praised the College’s Director of Music, Andrew Arthur, for his professional and “very human” approach to their music-making. Choir members also receive individual support with vocal tutors.

Beyond the venues, travel and love of music there is, they both agree, another benefit. “The famous Sunday formal. It is really good food and it gives us a chance to socialise. Not just with each other: people often come back from previous years, even 50 years ago,” said Rhiannon.

The tour to Malta was also really good for building community said Tom. “When you share a tour bus for so long you get to know people really well.”

The choir’s final concert of the term will be today (13 June) at 1.30pm.

Favourite music to perform?

Rhiannon: Dyson’s Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in D,

Tom: Howells’ Collegium Regale and Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas.