Making History: The day the Choir secured an EMI recording contract

Welcome to Archive item of the week: where we delve into Guildford Cathedral Archives to highlight some of the unique items within the collection.

This week: the Guildford Cathedral Choir.  Our People’s Cathedral Archivist takes a rare look at the history of the Choir to reveal a little known fact.

This week we are focusing on Guildford Cathedral Choir with a look at a recording contact from EMI dating to 1966.


Even in the early history of the Cathedral there was already a great deal of interest in recording the Choir.

The first Organist, Barry Rose was very keen to record the Cathedral Choir, and the first time that the choir was recorded with the intention of releasing was in July 1963, when a BBC engineer, who happened to be the son of the Precentor recorded the boys singing.  So it was nothing new for the choristers to be recorded and aiming to release a record.

In 1964 two recordings were made for BBC Radio and then in November 1964 they were recorded by EMI signing Maunder’s ‘Olivet to Cavalry’ which was released on the HMV label Easter 1965.

As a result of this recording EMI offered the Choir a five year recording contact which can be seen in the Cathedral Archives.

Barry Rose was recorded as saying

“it is gratifying to realise that through the medium of Gramophone records and the BBC the musical work that the Choir does is now far wider known and appreciated than amongst those who actually attend choral services at the Cathedral”.

It really was a fantastic opportunity to get the work of the Cathedral Choir known far wider than could be achieved.

This is a remarkable achievement when it is remembered that Barry Rose was only first appointed to his job on 5th May 1960 and the Cathedral itself was not consecrated until 17 May 1961.  In just a short period of time Barry Rose raised the standard of the Cathedral Choir so that it was of good enough quality to receive a recording contract.  Considering this was built up completely from scratch – building links with local schools and in particular Lanesborough school to enable to have such a selection of good quality singers to be in a position just six years later to be offered a five year recording contract.

When Barry Rose left in 1974 he left a lasting legacy of a strong musical tradition which still continues today.

If you wanted to hear our lovely choir then please do listen to BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong on Wednesday 22nd June at 15:30, all details can be found on the BBC website