The Choir of St Mary the Virgin, Nottingham is acclaimed as one of the finest Anglican church choirs in the country. Renowned for its versatility and wide repertoire it performs music from plainsong through to world premieres. As well as performing music for liturgical use, the choir regularly undertakes large scale works from Monteverdi’s Vespers to Verdi’s Requiem. Typically, the choir sings three services a week (Wednesday Evensong (6:15pm), Sunday Eucharist (11am) and Sunday Evensong (6:30pm) as well as regular concerts throughout the year, upholding a tradition of outstanding choral music in Nottingham. Services are broadcast from the website homepage, and you can listen to recent services again here.
The choir has made a number of recordings over recent years including Mater Christi, a disc of Marian motets produced by Regent Records (2015) and A St Mary’s Christmas, a disc of sacred and secular music for Christmas (2017). Beyond Nottingham, the choir has sung in Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral and toured across Europe, most recently to France, Italy and Germany. Broadcasts include Sunday Half-Hour and In Praise of God for BBC World Service, Radio 4’s The Daily Service and Sunday Worship, BBC Radio Nottingham’s annual Carol Service and BBC 1’s Songs of Praise.
Praise for St Mary’s Choir
Choir & Organ – Mater Christi: Marian Motets
“This enterprising CD from John Keys and the Choir of St Mary the Virgin, Nottingham, offers a selection of over 400 years of Marian motets, from Lassus to Tavener and Pärt. It provides a suitable showcase for the choir’s versatility, whose warm, generous and well-disciplined sound is finely moulded by Keys… A thoroughly enjoyable and well-varied programme.”
Nottingham Evening Post – Bach’s St John Passion
“St Mary’s Choir… brought out the solemnity, emotion and drama of Bach’s retelling of the Passion narrative… Sensitivity to the text was always to the fore, in the rich choral textures as well as in the fine solo interpretations by members of the Choir.”
Nottingham Evening Post – Handel’s Te Deum
“Energetic, committed singing brought out the prevailing mood of celebration, juxtaposed effectively with more reflective sections”
Nottingham Evening Post – Mozart’s Requiem
“Whether expressing a tender lament or dramatic foreboding, the voices were skilfully balanced and blended”
Church Times – Biber’s Missa Salisburgensis
“A superbly motivated performance, utterly true to the work: an hour of exhilaration”
Nottingham Evening Post – John Sheppard 450th Anniversary Concert
“The pauses in this richly woven music were as beautifully judged as the notes, making it an experience beyond time and space.”
Director of Music
John Keys, Director of Music and the Arts, was appointed in May 1984, shortly before gaining 1st prize in the 4th Manchester International Organ Competition. Organ scholar at New College, Oxford, he subsequently studied with Lionel Rogg at the Geneva Conservatoire. During his 36 years in post, he has created a choir renowned for its versatility, whether leading services or performing to the highest standard with St.Mary’s own Orchestra of the Restoration. Nottingham City Organist since 2016, John gives recitals in many different countries and is also in demand as a teacher and accompanist.
Children’s Choir Director
Lucy Haigh has always been interested in music for children, having formed her first choir at Oxford High School when she was only sixteen. In 1991 she founded The Hildegard Choir for girls, and later its two junior choirs. Meanwhile, she studied Music, including Vocal Performance, at Durham University. In 1998 and 2000, The Hildegard Choir reached the semi-finals of the prestigious Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year competition and appeared on BBC television on Christmas Day. In 2004, the Choir competed at the International Choir Festival of Jersey, against accomplished youth and adult choirs from throughout Europe, and was crowned overall ‘Choir of Choirs’ champions. During her years in Oxford, Lucy also founded and directed the Palestrina Boys’ Choir. In 2006, Lucy relocated to Perth, Western Australia to take up the post of Head of Choral Music at St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls. In 2010, she returned to the UK to become Cathedral Choral Director at Leeds Cathedral. While at Leeds, she formed the Cathedral Junior Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs and the Cathedral Children’s Choir. These choirs sang approximately 40 full choral liturgies each year and broadcast on BBC Radios 2 and 4 (including the Daily Service and Sunday Worship), the entire BBC local radio network, and BBC television (including Midnight Mass from Leeds Cathedral and two editions of Songs of Praise), ITV and Sky. Lucy also visited up to twelve primary schools every week to teach whole-class singing sessions and to direct choirs. Lucy was delighted to become Children’s Choir Director at St Mary’s in May 2022. In addition, she is a freelance singing teacher and choral director.
William Layzell-Smith was appointed organ scholar in May 2022. After having lessons on the organ at Bancroft’s School in Essex, he continued his studies with John Rippin at Chingford Parish Church. He is an engineer by training having studied for a Master’s degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge between 2017 and 2021. While serving as St Mary’s organ scholar he continues this by studying for a PhD at the University of Nottingham.
Find out more here: Organ Scholarships