Clifton Singers photograph

The Clifton Singers, December 2023

About the Clifton Singers

The choir was founded in 1972 by Ken Smith to sing unaccompanied music, especially (but not only) from the Renaissance and from Victorian England. Since 1982 it has been conducted by Nicholas Barlow, and has sung a great variety of music as can be seen below. More information on the history of the choir is available below.

Selected repertoire

Recent programmes have included:

  • French Chansons
  • English Partsongs
  • Britten - Sacred and Profane; Five Flower Songs
  • Byrd - Mass for Five Voices; anthems & motets
  • Copland - Four Motets
  • Debussy - 3 Chansons de Charles d'Orléans
  • Kodály - Jesus and the Traders
  • Poulenc - 4 Lenten motets
  • Scheidt - Magnificat
  • and music by Barber, Duruflé, Elgar, Finzi, Grieg, Guerrero, Holst, Howells, Kodály, Liszt, Macmillan, Messiaen, Moeran, Monteverdi, Purcell etc.
  • We recently gave the first performance of Bristol Landscapes, a set of three pieces composed for us by Raymond Warren.


History of the Clifton Singers

The Clifton Singers began when some members of the choir of All Saints, Clifton, wanted to sing a broader repertoire than was needed for church services. Other singers joined them, and Ken Smith was approached to conduct the new choir, which was formed in 1972. Rehearsals moved to the chapel of St Matthias College, where Ken was Head of Music, in 1973.

It was Ken Smith's idea that the choir's purpose should be to visit interesting rural churches, where there was usually little music of the sort the Clifton Singers sang, and to celebrate the building by moving around, singing appropriate motets at different points, e.g. Locus Iste in the porch, Sicut Cervus around the font, etc. There were concerts in Magor; Portbury; Whitchurch Canonicorum; Edington; Long Sutton; All Cannings; Winterbourne; East Harptree; Tarrant Keyneston; Holy Trinity Taunton; Barrow Gurney, among others.

In 1981 the choir was conducted for one year by Glyn Jenkins, of Bristol University Music department, and from 1982 to 2023 the conductor was Nick Barlow, and the choir performed in churches in the Bristol area. Following Nick′s retirement, the choir is now conducted by Huw Morgan.