The Edinburgh University Singers, the University’s longest established choir, was founded in 1945 and was conducted up until the early 1950s by the distinguished clergyman, theologian, hymn writer and musician, Ian Pitt-Watson.
The choir was then taken under the leadership of Herrick Bunney around 1952, whose prior post was at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh where he was Master of Music for many years. Bunney conducted the choir until the early 1980s, and a particular highlight of his tenure was the annual performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, which usually took place in the Reid Concert Hall. Bunney worked on developing the choir’s repertoire and in addition to major works pushed the choir to excel in an increasing amount of part songs, chansons and madrigals.
Around 1984, conductorship was taken over by John Grundy who provided inspiring leadership until he left in 1988, having been offered a prestigious musical appointment in Australia.
At that point Dr John Kitchen, who had recently moved from the University of St Andrews to Edinburgh, took over the helm. In addition to giving many concerts in both Edinburgh and beyond, Singers have always had an important ‘official’ role in the singing at graduation ceremonies and other significant university events. In the early 1990s we undertook our very first trip abroad– to Salzburg, Austria. Such overseas trips were unusual in those days before cheap flights, and for reasons of expense the travel was by coach, taking two whole days to reach Austria. Trips have continued most years since, and fortunately travelling arrangements have greatly improved.
Highlights are always the various Christmas concerts, the University Carol Service, and other special events; the choir’s contribution at these always elicits much praise from academics and others. After 30 years of continued directorship of the Singers, John passed over his tenure to Calum Robertson in 2018. In 2020 the Singers celebrated their 75th Anniversary.