The choir's director will be made redundant at the end of Easter termLouis Ashworth for Varsity

St John’s College’s mixed-gender choir is to be disbanded at the end of Easter term, in a move described as “crazy” by its members.

The St John’s Voices choir (SJV) was formed in 2013 under musical director Graham Walker, who is now set to be made redundant at the end of Easter term.

Members received an email from the College Master, Heather Hancock, informing them of the decision “following the recent report of an ad hoc Committee on Music in College and, last year, a report on the contribution of the Chapel to the wider life of the College”.

The Master explained that the decision would allow for “new opportunities” by redirecting “the funding currently provided to the St John’s Voices as a second Chapel choir”.

It has been suggested that SJV, which has been mixed gender since its formation in 2013, is no longer necessary, now that female members can apply to join the Chapel choir at St John’s.

In October 2021, St John’s Chapel Choir began admitting female members, with there currently being three, one of whom is a current student of the college.

There are concerns, however, that this decision will in turn restrict diversity in the college’s choirs. SJV members have told Varsity that there are 14 female members of their choir, compared to three in the Chapel choir. The Chapel choir also restricts women from joining as sopranos.

The announcement was made to members of the choir on Monday evening (18/03), and publicly on the choir’s X page, saying: “We were devastated to hear yesterday that the college has decided to disband SJV at the end of this academic year. We are so proud of what we have achieved and will miss singing together every Monday.”

The College has described SJV choir as having “developed a remarkable reputation for emotionally-charged, musically committed performances” since its formation 11 years ago.

John’s also detailed the group’s regular tours, including to Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and that they have performed alongside the English Consort to “sell-out audiences”.

One member of the choir told Varsity that the choir’s director, Graham Walker, informed the choir about the decision after the group concluded a three-day recording project on Monday evening (18/03).

Walker had known about the decision for some time, but confidentiality agreements had restricted him from warning members beforehand, or garnering public support to overturn the decision. The member recalled the group feeling as if they “knew something was coming,” having felt that the college “hasn’t been happy with [the SJV] for some time”.

The choirmaster’s redundancy has been described as “devastating” by members of the choir and college community.

One member described the decision as “crazy”, considering how “Graham has built the choir from scratch over the last ten years”. They described Walker as “one of the finest directors of music in this town”, and told Varsity that the news of Walker’s pending redundancy at the end of Easter tem has left members of the choir “devastated for him and his family”.


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Since the announcement, many have taken to social media to comment. On an anonymous Facebook comments page, Choirbridge, one called for a “choir wide coup in support of SJV”. Others called for petitions, open letters, and one even offered to “egg the master”.

Another addressed Walker directly, saying: “Graham Walker, you are an incredible man. You have such levels of dedication, selflessness, energy and a nurturing kindness that has allowed an amazing choir to flourish”.

It is “sickening and worrying that St John’s College fails to understand this, but know that we as a choir are forever grateful for what you have done to our lives,” the student said.

The choir has found fame on TikTok, where they have 62,000 followers. Some of the group’s videos have been viewed almost 9 million times globally.

St John’s College has been contacted for comment.