Music director: Stephen Hall OBE
Patron: Dame Clare Moriarty DCB
“If anyone needed further proof that singing can bring people together and transform our lives, look no further than the Civil Service Choir! Their enthusiasm and sheer enjoyment of performing is infectious, in addition to their commitment and diligence in entertaining their audience with truly heartening performances.”
Ben Parry – Artistic Director of National Youth Choirs of Great Britain & Assistant Director of Music, King’s College, Cambridge
“It was an absolute pleasure to hear a programme of my music given such an energetic and enthusiastic performance at St John’s Smith Square by the Civil Service Choir and Stephen Hall. Thank you for sharing my music with your audience.”
Will Todd – Composer
With around 200 members drawn from Whitehall government departments and agencies in Westminster, the Civil Service Choir is no ordinary workplace choir, and we have earned a reputation for remarkable performances. See what people say below. We are proudly supported by SPARTA, a departmental recreational association.
We have performed over 160 times in concerts, services and for events. We perform a wide range of accompanied and unaccompanied repertoire in ambitious programmes (see performances).
Our most recent concert, Celebrating Will Todd Choral Jazz, was in November 2023. This included the Mass in Blue, accompanied by a stellar jazz orchestra and soloist. Will Todd was a special guest and talked about the featured music. In July 2023 our concert, A Medley of Musical Memories, featured works from many of our past summer concerts to celebrate 150 performances since the choir was formed in 2009. In March 2023 we performed Dvořák’s Mass in D at St John’s Smith Square.
In June 2019 we sang in a Service of Thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey for the life and work of Jeremy, Lord Heywood of Whitehall GCB CVO. We have been honoured to give concerts in the baroque concert venue of St John’s Smith Square; in the Arts and Crafts church of Holy Trinity, Sloane Square; in the beautiful Victorian church of St Stephen’s, Rochester Row; in the Guards’ Chapel, Wellington Barracks; and at events in various Government Departments in Westminster. We undertook our first tour in October 2018 during which we sang at the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony in Ypres and gave a concert at the church of St Walburga in Bruges, Belgium. Hear a selection of our concert performances.
After a wait of 2.5 years owing to Covid-19 and its legacies we made a jubilant return to St John’s Smith Square in July 2022 to perform Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo. We performed the work again at the National Liberal Club in November and a week later gave a stunning performance of Vivaldi’s Beatus Vir and Dixit Dominus at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, with the Brandenburg Sinfonia. Our last pre-Covid-19 concert was at St John’s Square in January 2020 performing parts 1 and 6 of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. In November 2019 we were there performing Bob Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass and Will Todd’s Songs of Love and his arrangement of Amazing Grace in the London Jazz Festival. Will Todd attended the concert and talked about his pieces. We also performed in the same venue earlier in the year, with Ola Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass in July and Schubert’s two settings of the Stabat Mater as part of the Holy Week Festival in April. Other concerts there have included Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, Beethoven’s Mass in C, and Poulenc’s Stabat Mater. We have also given concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate and St Katharine Cree as part of the Brandenburg London Choral Festival, most recently performing Vivaldi’s Gloria in St Martin’s in September 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant four planned concerts at St John’s Smith Square were cancelled, including our second appearance in the London Jazz Festival. Face to face activities effectively ceased between March 2020 and September 2021. However four virtual recording projects were undertaken and there were some virtual rehearsals. Three live church services were possible with a limited choir performing within government guidelines – at one point restricting us to just six singers. Weekly face to face rehearsals resumed in October 2021 but for some time activities were affected by restrictions and changes in work patterns. We are now back!
What people have said about our performances:
- “Fabulous concert of Will Todd music last night. So much energy in Mass in Blue that I thought St John’s Smith Square would lift off.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “I have not enjoyed a concert that much in many years. Fabulous!” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “I’ve never had a musical experience quite like it.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “I loved this concert. Thanks so much to all the musicians.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “A fantastic concert. Such a dedicated group of voices.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “A superb concert on Sunday. We were quite frankly blown away by the professionalism and quality of the choir and the ambition you all had to take on and deliver such a complex evening. Such a wonderful night.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “A massive well done for Sunday – a brilliant concert.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “The choir sounded strong, tight, groovy and gave everyone so much energy to the front of the stage.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “Congratulations on delivering another superb jazz concert.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “It was an outstanding concert at St John’s this evening. I am so pleased I attended.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “It was a tremendously enjoyable evening – ‘a triumph’!” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “I have had a warm glow all day from the memory of such an excellent evening.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “I am continually amazed at what you get that choir to do, and so successfully.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “It was a truly memorable concert with wonderful performances.” (A Celebration of Will Todd Choral Jazz, Nov 2023)
- “How absolutely amazing the choir sounded!” (A Medley of Musical Memories, Jul 2023)
- “I was both uplifted and moved.” (A Medley of Musical Memories, Jul 2023)
- “An incredible experience.” (A Medley of Musical Memories, Jul 2023)
- “I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent, special concert” (A Medley of Musical Memories, Jul 2023)
- “The ‘surround sound’ Lay a Garland was quite mind blowing! Fantastic.” (A Medley of Musical Memories, Jul 2023)
- “How brilliant” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “The choir sounded very good, indeed thrilling at times, with an astonishing amount of power.” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “I felt privileged to experience the performance” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “The choir achieved a superlative level of excellence throughout and fully deserved the extended period of applause.” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “A brilliant experience.” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- ““A triumph!” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “It was very special to have that time in a different world” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “It was a stirring and uplifting experience” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “I’d like to go to the concert all over again!” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “The quality of the choir’s singing was outstanding – a really polished and compelling performance, full of confidence and enjoyment.” (Dvořák Mass in D, Mar 2023)
- “Thank you for bringing so much joy. The carol service was simply beautiful, emotional and spiritual.” (Carol Service, Dec 2022)
- “Wow! A wonderful concert from beginning to end. Just brilliant.” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- ”I am still basking in pleasure from last night’s concert.” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- ”Simply spectacular!” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- “A brilliant concert. Truly magical” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- ”It was absolutely amazing. The choir sounded incredible, as did the orchestra.” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- ”Well done. A really lovely programme.” (Vivaldi on the Double, Nov 2022)
- “It was quite the most moving and heartfelt performance I have known for many years.” (Jubilate Deo, Jul 2022)
- “From the moment the choir started singing it was clear something special was going to happen.” (Jubilate Deo, Jul 2022)
- “The audience was clearly enraptured and you all fully deserved the ovation at the end.” (Jubilate Deo, Jul 2022)
- “That wasn’t just a concert. That was an experience!” (Jubilate Deo, Jul 2022)
- “What a terrific choir!”
- “I love this wonderful choir” – composer Will Todd (Nov 2019)
- “Thanks for a fabulous performance of Songs of Love this evening. What a lovely concert – great to hear you all” – composer Will Todd (Nov 2019)
- “Just brilliant”
- “Absolutely stunningly good. Bravo”
- “One of the largest and certainly most adventurous and successful work place choirs” – London Jazz Festival
- “Hugely talented people committed to bringing musical joy to others”
- “Fantastic sound and everyone was so enthusiastic”
- “The choir were amazing”
- “An outstanding choir, an outstanding orchestra”
- “A unique and inspiring event”
- “A tremendous gig. Orchestra terrific!”
- “Really moving. When are you performing again?”
- “Amazing as ever”
- “The choir performed brilliantly”
- “The choir and orchestra were outstanding”
- “You sounded incredible”
- “Simply phenomenal”
- “It was absolutely magnificent, exhilarating and unexpectedly emotional”
- “A fantastic and stunning achievement”
- “It was amazing. I loved it”
- “An amazing event. Absolutely brilliant”
- “People in the audience wiping tears from their eyes”
- “A magnificent concert”
- “A truly outstanding set of performances”
- “A spine-tinglingly beautiful concert”
- “It was as if I had gone to heaven”
- “A brilliant concert”
- “It was stunning”
- “You were amazing”
- “That was fantastic”
- “I can’t believe how good that was”
See lots of photographs of the choir on our Facebook page. In February 2018 we featured in a BBC Radio 4 documentary about the Civil Service and Brexit.
We are very proud to have such a fantastic choir as part of the Civil Service family.
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 – now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). 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. It has been supported throughout its development by the SPARTA recreational association.
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. We also have a number of former Civil Servants as members. Dame Clare Moriarty, former Permanent Secretary, became our first patron in 2017.
We can however trace our lineage through several predecessor choirs: Victoria Singers (1997-2000; a group reformed for a carol service 2000-2008), 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.
The choir’s debut concert in November 2009 was with 25 singers having started with only 4 people at the first rehearsal two months earlier.
The choir is conducted and managed by founder music director Stephen Hall OBE, who works in Defra. Building on his experience as a choral singer and choir administrator, he has been instrumental in the choir’s development and success, and he has conducted the choir in over 160 performances. He has received professional 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. Read an interview (June 2019) about what motivated Stephen to found the choir and a more recent interview for a Civil Service Blog (August 2022).
Other musical support
We are also regularly joined by members of the Whitehall Orchestra and other musicians to form our own bespoke orchestral consorts. We have been delighted to perform with the professional Brandenburg Sinfonia. Our larger-scale performances have featured soloists from the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music; and Trinity Laban Conservatoire.
Raising money for charities
For a number of concerts, instead of charging entry we have charity collections – an important aspect of our ethos. So far we have raised £45,400 for charities.
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 also support the Charity for Civil Servants, which provides welfare and other support.
We have also supported 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 raised over £2,000 for armed forces charities.
We are supported very generously by the SPARTA Recreational Association and through membership subscriptions.
The choir is managed by an elected committee drawn from its membership and other choir members take on tasks to help with its administration.
The choir was awarded the Defra Vandepeer Trophy in 2015 in recognition of its success and contribution to the Department.