Music at Queens’

Queens’ is fortunate in being one of the most musically active colleges in the University. It boasts a rich and varied musical life, and former Organ Scholars have included Charles Villiers Stanford (1870-72) and Richard Hickox (1967-1970).

The musical life in College exists through a strong partnership between the Chapel Choir and the Music Society – MagSoc (short for The St. Margaret’s Society of Queens’ College). In addition to the MagSoc Symphony Orchestra and MagSoc Concert Orchestra, the MagSoc Chorus is the largest non-audition choir in Cambridge, and these groups are often conducted by the Organ Scholars.

MagSoc typically puts on a large-scale concert at the end of Michaelmas or Lent (in West Road Concert Hall, the University Church or Queens’ itself) and a smaller May Week event, and the Chapel Choir is usually required to support these events. The College boasts several fine concert venues:

  • The Chapel, designed by George Frederick Bodley and consecrated in 1891 (replacing the Old Chapel, of 1451, now the College Library), is noted within Cambridge for its very fine acoustic, and its 1892 Binns organ, which is certainly one of the finest and most historically valuable instruments in all of Cambridge,
  • Old Hall is available for concerts when not used for dinners and other events, through MagSoc, who own a Boston grand piano,
  • The Fitzpatrick Hall is one of the finest theatres available to students in the University, and has been used very successfully for musicals and operas, through BATS (the Queens’ dramatic society) and CUOS (Cambridge University Opera Society),
  • The Long Gallery of the President’s Lodge is sometimes used for concerts involving students, and this stunning venue is often used for receptions and fundraising events involving the Choir.

College has many fine instruments:

  • The Binns organ is one of the finest instruments of its type in existence: it was built in 1892 by James Jepson Binns of Leeds, and remains tonally unaltered (at its original Victorian pitch of A=447), making it one of the most outstanding examples of late Victorian organ building in the country. It was completely restored in 2002 by Harrison & Harrison, and is highly versatile as a solo and liturgical instrument, with thirty-two speaking stops,
  • There are two (mostly) soundproof practice rooms under the Nursery, which can be booked by anybody in College using a folder in the Porters’ Lodge,
  • There are pianos in the Chapel and the Old Music Room, which may be used for practice after consultation with the Chaplain and Organ Scholars,
  • There is a Boston grand piano in Old Hall, available to some pianists through MagSoc,
  • The President makes the instruments in his Music Room and the Long Gallery available for the most accomplished pianists in College, namely two Steinway grand pianos and a Johnson double-manual harpsichord,
  • MagSoc have a drum kit (in the music practice rooms) and a variety of percussion instruments available on request.
Luke Chapman
Luke Chapman,
Sports, Societies and Entertainments Officer