Selwyn College Chapel Choir

Newnham College Choral Scholars join the mixed Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, across the road from Newnham. Selwyn College Chapel Choir has led worship in the College Chapel since its foundation in the last decade of the nineteenth century. For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the all-male choir of undergraduates was directed by the Organ Scholars and sang daily Choral Evensong. For occasional larger works, the men “borrowed” sopranos and altos from Newnham.

The mixed choir, formed in 1976 with the admission of women to Selwyn, now consists of up to twenty-eight Choral Scholars (called Choral Exhibitioners), most of whom are undergraduate or graduate students at Selwyn or Newnham, with a few volunteers from other colleges. The choir is conducted by the Director of Music in Chapel, who is assisted by two undergraduate Organ Scholars.

During term, the choir sings three services per week in the College Chapel, as well as concerts and services throughout the UK. Its repertoire ranges from the 10th to the 21st century. The choir has made a number of recordings, for labels including Herald, Priory, Regent, and URM. They have broadcast services for BBC Radio, and every year undertake an international tour (in the recent past, destinations have included France, Hungary, the United States, Israel and Palestine, Canada, Finland and Estonia, New Zealand). For more details on the choir’s touring schedule, click here.

Selwyn College Chapel Choir is directed by Sarah MacDonald.

Sarah came to the UK from her native Canada in 1992 as Organ Scholar of Robinson College, Cambridge, after studying piano, organ, singing, and conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where she was a student of Leon Fleisher, Marek Jablonski, and John Tuttle. Sarah read for a degree in Music at Cambridge, taking her BA in 1995 and her MA in 1999. She studied the organ with David Sanger. She was appointed Director of Music in Chapel at Selwyn College in 1999, and is the first woman to hold such a post in an Oxbridge Chapel. Sarah has taught organ and conducting for Eton Choral Courses, the Oundle School for Young Organists, the Jennifer Bate Organ Academy, and courses run by the Royal College of Organists (RCO); she gives regular choral workshops for both professional and amateur choirs in the UK and Canada, and teaches for the Cambridge University Music Faculty.

In her “spare time”, Sarah also runs the University’s Inter-Collegiate Organ Scholarships Competitions, and for many years was the Director of Music at Newnham College. Sarah has played numerous recitals and made over 25 recordings, variously in the guises of pianist, organist, conductor, and producer. She has conducted choirs on tours throughout the UK, Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, and Canada, has broadcast live on BBC Radio, and is a winner of the RCO Limpus Prize. Sarah is a Fellow of the RCO, and is a member of both the national Council and the Academic Board. Sarah can be contacted at Selwyn College ( and is always happy to hear from prospective Choral Scholars.

Some of the links below will take you to the official web-site for Selwyn College Chapel Choir, where you can find more detailed information about the choir’s activities.
Newnham Choral Awards (Choral Exhibitions)
Choral Award Open Day
How to apply for a Choral Award
Chapel Services and Rehearsals

As well as making the full commitment to the Chapel Choir at Selwyn, Newnham Choral Scholars are expected to play a leading role in music-making and organisation at Newnham.