Edinburgh Festival Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus gives voice to the International Festival’s choral programme.

Each year, singers from across Scotland come together to perform cornerstone works of the classical repertoire with some of the world’s greatest soloists, conductors and orchestras.

For over 50 years, The Edinburgh Festival Chorus has been the backbone of the International Festival’s choral programme.

Over that time, its singers have had the opportunity to perform alongside the likes of Leonard Bernstein and the London Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Edinburgh Festival Chorus scores are supported by Risk Charitable Fund.

Large orchestra stood on a stage with performers at the front and a chorus raised behind at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall

Edinburgh Festival Chorus perform alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2019

© Ryan Buchanan

How do I join?

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus is a world-class symphonic choir – as such, an audition is required to join. We will expect you to be able to read music and sing to a high standard.

If you're interested in joining the Chorus, email our Chorus Manager Gemma Wallbanks (gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk) who will provide you with further information.

The audition

The audition will last approximately ten minutes and is intended to be a relaxed, friendly guided session with the Chorus Director, Aidan Oliver and our accompanist, Stuart Hope. You are asked to bring a short, straightforward song or aria of your choice. There will also be vocalising exercises to assess your vocal range. You will not be asked to sightread; instead the Chorus Director will work with you to learn a very short passage of music, with plenty of assistance given.

What do I have to prepare?

A classical song or aria of your choice with piano accompaniment, of around two to three minutes (or four minutes max). We have a selection of suitable choices available, with sheet music to download (please contact gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk to enquire about this), but you are welcome to choose your own comparable song. Please note that folksongs, unaccompanied songs, songs from musicals, or songs in Gaelic are not suitable for this audition.

Being part of the Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus is a group of 130 singers drawn from all walks of life. Not just another amateur choir, they delight in having the opportunity to work with the very best conductors and orchestras from around the world. The Chorus wouldn’t be what it is today without their passion and dedication.

Group of singers sat in a line rehearsing
© Ryan Buchanan

What kind of time commitment do I need to make?

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus rehearses every Tuesday evening at 7.00-9.30pm from October to June.

There are also rehearsal weekends in November, January, March, May and July and you will need to be available for the duration of the International Festival in August, for concerts and associated rehearsals.

I'm not sure if I have enough time!

If full membership is not possible, we also have an Augmenters List for singers who would still like to be involved. As an Augmenter, you are invited to join the Chorus for a particular work and its related rehearsals.

Augmenting is a fantastic opportunity to be involved if you haven’t the time to fully commit to the Chorus.

If you are interested in becoming an augmenter, please email gemma.wallbanks@eif.co.uk

Beyond the International Festival

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus primarily performs at the International Festival but additional performances may occur.

The Chorus have previously taken part in Edinburgh’s Christmas Street of Light in 2016, and recently performed Berlioz’s Lelio – the enthralling sequel to Symphonie Fantastique – with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Pascal Rophé.

Large chorus stood on stage being conducted by a man at the front
© Gaelle Beri

A little history...

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus was founded in 1965, and made its debut with the Scottish National Orchestra for the Opening Concert, performing Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8. Since then, it has been at the heart of the International Festival, performing annually with internationally renowned orchestras, soloists and conductors.

The Chorus has performed virtually all the great standard works of the 19th and 20th centuries, continuously broadening its repertoire under the Festival Director’s programming.

Chorus Director – Aidan Oliver

Aidan Oliver took up the position of Chorus Director in Autumn 2018. He is one of the UK's leading choral directors, with wide experience across the whole spectrum of symphonic, operatic, liturgical, and contemporary music. In 2019 he was appointed as Chorus Director at Glyndebourne Opera, with responsibility for directing the company’s renowned Chorus in both its summer Festival and autumn Tour.

He is also the founding director of Philharmonia Voices, the professional choir which collaborates with the Philharmonia Orchestra on many of its most ambitious projects, while as guest chorus director he has worked with some of the UK’s leading choirs including the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Singers, Huddersfield Choral Society and the Chorus of English National Opera. His previous roles have included Director of Music at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, Associate Conductor of the St Endellion Festival in Cornwall, and regular guest conductor of Orchestra North East.

Aidan Oliver will step down from the position of Chorus Director following the 2023 Festival, and will be succeeded by James Grossmith who will take up the position in September 2023.

Edinburgh festival Chorus stood on stage at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall
© Gaelle Beri