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Edinburgh Festival Chorus © Gaelle Beri 3 Photo: Gaelle Beri

Edinburgh Festival Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus gives voice to the International Festival’s choral programme.

Each year, singers from across Scotland come together to perform cornerstone works of the classical repertoire with some of the world’s greatest soloists, conductors and orchestras. 

For over fifty years, The Edinburgh Festival Chorus has been the backbone of the International Festival’s choral programme.

Over that time, its singers have had the opportunity to perform alongside the likes of Leonard Bernstein and the London Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The 2019 International Festival programme offered the chance to sing Elgar’s The KingdomMahler’s tumultuous second symphony, Resurrection and James MacMillan’s Quickening – a powerful work for chorus, children’s choir and orchestra.

In 2018, the Chorus performed Mahler's Eighth Symphony, known as the 'Symphony of a Thousand', alongside the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding; Vaughan Williams's A Sea Symphony with the BBC Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Ravel's lavish Daphnis et Chloé with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Dvořák's monumental Requiem with Bamberger Symphoniker.

Edinburgh Festival Chorus perform alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2019 | Photo: Ryan Buchanan

How do I Join?

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus is a world-class amateur choir - as such, an audition is required to join. We will expect you to be able to read music and sing to a high standard.

If you're interested in joining the Chorus, email our Chorus Manager Gemma Wallbanks (gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk) who will provide you with further information.

The Audition

The audition will last approximately ten minutes and is conducted before the Chorus Director and an accompanist. It will consist of a song/aria of your choice and a choral excerpt accompanied by our pianist. There will also be vocalising exercises to assess your vocal range and a short piece of sight reading.

What do I have to prepare?

A classical song or aria of your choice with piano accompaniment. Folksongs, unaccompanied songs, songs from musicals, or songs in Gaelic are not suitable for this audition.

We will provide the accompanist but please bring copies of your music for them and the Chorus Director.

For the choral excerpt, please prepare all of your vocal part for one of the following:

Brahms Requiem Movement IV; Handel Messiah And he shall purify; Verdi Requiem Libera me; or Mozart Requiem Kyrie (excerpts are available on request).

Being Part of the Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus is a group of 130 singers drawn from all walks of life. Not just another amateur choir, they delight in having the opportunity to work with the very best conductors and orchestras from around the world. The Chorus wouldn’t be what it is today without their passion and dedication.

Photo: Ryan Buchanan
What kind of time commitment do I need to make?

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus rehearses every Tuesday evening at 7.00-9.30pm from October to June. 

There are also rehearsal weekends in November, January, March, May and July and you will need to be available during the International Festival, 2-26 August 2019, for concerts and associated rehearsals.

I'm not sure if I have enough time!

If full membership is not possible, we also have an Augmenters List for singers who would still like to be involved. As an Augmenter, you are invited to join the Chorus for a particular work and its related rehearsals.  

Augmenting is a fantastic opportunity to be involved if you haven’t the time to fully commit to the Chorus.

If you are interested in becoming an augmenter, please email gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk

Beyond the International Festival

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus primarily performs at the International Festival but additional performances may occur. The Chorus have previously taken part in Edinburgh’s Christmas Street of Light in 2016, and recently performed Berlioz’s Lelio - the enthralling sequel to Symphonie Fantastique - with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Pascal Rophé in February 2019.

Photo: Gaelle Beri

A Little History...

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus was founded in 1965, and made its debut with the Scottish National Orchestra for the Opening Concert, performing Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8. Since then, it has been at the heart of the International Festival, performing annually with internationally renowned orchestras, soloists and conductors.

The Chorus has performed virtually all the great standard works of the 19th and 20th centuries, continuously broadening its repertoire under the Festival Director’s programming.  

Photo: Gaelle Beri
Chorus Director - Aidan Oliver

Aidan Oliver took up his new position of Chorus Director in Autumn 2018. He is one of the UK's leading choir directors, with extensive involvement across the full range of symphonic, operatic, liturgical and amateur singing. Aidan is the founding director of Philharmonia Voices, the professional choir which collaborates with the Philharmonia Orchestra on many of its most ambitious projects, while as guest chorus director he has worked with some of the UK’s leading choirs including the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Singers, Huddersfield Choral Society and the Chorus of English National Opera. In 2019 he will be preparing the Glyndebourne Chorus for all of its performances in the opera company’s summer Festival, and his previous roles have included Director of Music at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, Associate Conductor of the St Endellion Festival in Cornwall, and regular guest conductor of Orchestra North East.

Read our quick interview with Aidan here.

50 Years of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus

A book has been published to tell the story of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus’s colourful history, and to give audiences a glimpse into today’s Chorus. 

Copies of 50 years of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus can be bought online, at The Hub or at the Usher Hall for £5.

If you have sung with the Chorus over the past 50 years, you can have one for free! Please email gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk for more info.

Photo: Gaelle Beri
The Harmonium Project 

The Harmonium Project was the International Festival’s first outdoor opening event and marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.

Created by 59 Productions, the event combined a recording of John Adams’s mesmerising choral work Harmonium – performed by the Chorus - with a series of spectacular animations, projected onto the outside of the Usher Hall.

The Chorus members worked with the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Design Informatics, and examined the effects singing has on both the performer and the listener. The results formed part of the final projected visuals – placing the chorus at the centre of this unique work.