It was very affecting and I loved it.
The choir was officially recognised as The Civil Service Choir in May 2019. However, it was founded in September 2009 as Etcetera, originally as a staff choir covering three government departments in Westminster: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); Transport (DfT); and Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). It is from these Departments, and a purposeful loss of a space, that it derived its name: Environment Transport Communities to ETC to Et[ ]cetera and subsequently Etcetera – The Civil Service Choir.
With its inclusive name (“et cetera” means “and so forth”), the choir grew to have a membership from over 30 government departments and other bodies in Westminster, with in particular strong representation from the Department for Education (DfE), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Home Office. With many simply referring to it as the Civil Service Choir, it was officially recognsed as such in May 2019. We also have a number of former Civil Servants as members. Clare Moriarty CB, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), became our first patron in 2017.
We can however trace our lineage through several predecessor choirs: Victoria Singers (1997-2000), Marsham Singers (1972-97), St Christopher Singers (1964 to 1972) and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Choral Society (1957-72). There was a Civil Service Choir in the 1920s and we are planning to do some research to find out more.
We perform a wide range of accompanied and unaccompanied repertoire in ambitious programmes for our principal concerts and for other events (see performances).
The choir is conducted and managed by founder music director Stephen Hall OBE, who works in Defra. After several years of being on the other side of the baton in choirs, The choir was his first regular experience of directing one. He has since benefitted from formal choral conducting training through the Association of British Choral Directors and the English Choral Experience. In 2013, Stephen received Defra’s Engholm Trophy for founding and developing the choir. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s 2018 Birthday Honours for voluntary and charitable service.
We are also regularly joined by members of the Whitehall Orchestra and other musicians to form our own bespoke ensemble or orchestra when needed. Our larger-scale performances regularly feature soloists including from the Royal Academy of Music.
Our concert home is St Stephen’s Church, Rochester Row, Westminster.
However, we have had the great honour of so far giving seven concerts at the prestigious concert venue of St John’s Smith Square to perform major choral works with orchestra and professional soloists, including Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, Beethoven’s Mass in C, and Poulenc’s Stabat Mater. These concerts have proved extremely popular with capacity audiences.
We have also performed four times at the Guards’ Chapel, Wellington Barracks and have given concerts at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate and St Katharine Cree in the City of London as part of the Brandenburg London Choral Festival.
Where practicable our concerts have free admission. Instead of charging entry we have collections at the end of our performances – an important aspect of our ethos.
Our principal charity is the Cardinal Hume Centre, based on Horseferry Road. The Centre does incredible work to alleviate poverty and homelessness, and transforms people’s lives right on our doorstep.
We are also support The Lifeboat Fund – helping the RNLI to save lives at sea – which is the oldest Civil Service charity, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2016.
Through First World War Acts of Remembrance concerts at the Guards’ Chapel we have raised over £2,000 for armed forces charities.
We are funded by direct membership subscriptions and by the SPARTA Recreational Association to which members in Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government subscribe.
The choir is managed by an elected committee drawn from its membership and other choir members take on tasks to help with its administration.