The College referred to the 'significant resources' supporting SJV in a previous statement defending its decision to axe the choirKotomi_ / Flickr

St John’s College spent over 17 times more on the St John’s College Choir (SJCC) than the recently disbanded St John’s Voices (SJV) in the past year, Varsity can reveal.

Net operating costs stood at £1,022,564 for SJCC and only £58,667 for the axed SJV for the financial year 2022/23, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Expenses for SJCC are partly supported by donations and an endowment. With these funds accounted for, the college footed a total annual cost of £915,744 for the chapel choir.

The revelation comes after the College previously released a statement pledging to redirect the “significant resources” devoted to the mixed-gender SJV towards other musical opportunities, following the decision to disband the choir at the end of Easter term.

In the statement, St John’s declared the possibility of creating a “successor choir” to SJV, run by the University’s Centre for Music Performance. The college said that the “greatest hurdle” to this plan was “financial”, requiring an endowment of “at least £500,000”.

On Friday (19/04), the College told Varsity that the proposal for a successor all-voice choir, to be seed-funded by St John’s, “has not progressed”.

SJV received no funding from donations or endowments in the 2022/23 financial year.

The decision to axe SJV triggered widespread backlash, with some students voicing their frustration on social media. On Choirbridge, an anonymous confessions page, one student argued the figures showed that the college “is not being wholly truthful about the reasoning behind SJV’s disbandment”.

“It’s really rather difficult to take them seriously,” the student continued.

St John’s Voices told Varsity, in an abridged statement, that while “in no way would we suggest that [SJCC’s] funding should be limited,” these findings reveal that “funding is not a problem for the College, and is certainly not a valid reason for the termination of a successful choir”.

“It seems that the reasons for this action are not financial, but rather aesthetic,” the choir added.

Though the chapel choir began admitting women in 2022, SJV has said that only one woman is currently a member of SJCC, while there are 14 female members of SJV.


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St John’s has faced a growing campaign amid the Cambridge music community and the wider public against the proposed disbanding of SJV. A petition to save the choir started in late March by Alex Trigg, former SJCC organ scholar and present SJV member, has amassed nearly 15,000 signatures.

Prominent figures from classical music, including Simon Rattle, John Rutter and Hilary Hahn, have signed the petition. Its supporters also include politicians such as Steve Barclay, Robert Buckland and David Lidington.

A spokeswoman for St John’s College told Varsity: “The move to introduce a broader approach for music at St John’s was decided by the College Council after thorough consideration.”

“Careful attention has been given to feedback from students and to ensuring that all relevant perspectives raised have been taken into account. When it concluded the matter, the Council also noted with gratitude the outstanding contribution St John’s Voices has made over the last decade,” the statement continued.