The City of Oxford Choir will return to its roots when it holds two concerts this summer with a group of Dutch singers.

The Oxford choir was hastily formed in 1977 to host a choir from the Dutch twin city of Leiden.

Now, 46 years later, the musical link between the two cities will be re-established when the 40-strong Oxford choir holds two concerts with the Leiden English Choir.

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The first takes place in Leiden on Saturday, June 10 and the second at Oxford Town Hall on Saturday, July 8 at 7.30pm.

Heather Ralphs, from the Oxford choir, tells me: “In 1977, a male-voice choir from Leiden tried to arrange exchange visits with the Oxford Harmonic Choir (OHC).

“OHC could not provide enough home-stay places, so soprano Mary Williams organised a new choir of singers who would be able to offer beds to the visitors.

“She recruited singers from seven local choirs and the City of Oxford Choir was born, with Mary Williams as its secretary.

“The choir was initially intended to be temporary, but was put on a permanent footing in 1978 with the appointment of Carolyn Brock as musical director.”

In its early years, the choir enjoyed exchanges with choirs from Leiden and Oxford’s German twin city of Bonn, and toured other cities in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

It performed regularly at concerts in Oxford and made annual appearances at the Lord Mayor’s Christmas carol concerts at Oxford Town Hall.

It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017 with a concert in Queen’s College chapel.

Oxford Mail:

Ms Brock, organist and choir director at Mansfield College, directed the choir for 20 years.

Peter Leech was in charge from 1998 to 2005 when the current director, Duncan Aspden, took over.

The two forthcoming concerts, entitled ‘To See a World’, will, according to the organisers, “celebrate the world, our brief custodianship of it, and the gift of it we make to our children”.

The programme will include a special composition by Hebe de Champeaux, conductor of the Leiden choir, as well as works by John Ireland, Herbert Howells, Arvo Part, Jonathan Dove and Sarah Quartel. Thame Children’s Choir will also perform during the evening.

Ms Ralphs says: “The concerts will present a visible and audible experience of twinning, demonstrating how singing together can strengthen ties between citizens of different countries.

“The City of Oxford Choir will be returning to its roots in grand style.”

The 75th anniversary of Oxford’s oldest twin city link was marked by the planting of a tree in Leiden last year.

Oxford and Leiden reached the landmark in 2021, but celebrations had to be postponed because of Covid.

The visit to Leiden was the first by an Oxford party since 2019 because of the pandemic.

Tickets for the Oxford concert at available from TicketsOxford -

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

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