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Trinity thanks Director of Music Stephen Layton for inspirational leadership

As Director of Music Stephen Layton MBE announced his departure from Trinity at the end of the 2023 academic year to pursue his international conducting career, the College paid tribute to his 17 years of inspirational leadership that has made the Choir world-class.

Under Stephen Layton’s directorship, Trinity’s choir has become celebrated for its exploration of new choral works and synonymous with paving the way for young professional singers.

Master of Trinity Dame Sally Davies said:

The music at Trinity was one of the reasons I was thrilled to come to Trinity and as Master it is my absolute pleasure to regularly attend services and concerts in the College’s Chapel. Under Stephen Layton’s leadership the Choir has exceeded all expectations to become one of the best choirs in the world.

Stephen is not only an incredibly accomplished conductor, he has a talent for identifying opportunities that enable members of the Choir – who are drawn from our student body – to grow and develop their musical talents and interests.

I am sure alumni and current members of the College will join me in thanking Stephen for the 17 years he has dedicated to nurturing our choir members and putting Trinity firmly on the global musical map.

Stephen Layton. Photo: Keith Sau

In 2012 the Trinity College Choir was awarded the Gramophone Award for Choral Music for Howells’ Requiem and a US Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance for Beyond All Mortal Dreams, both on the Hyperion label.

Trinity’s wide-ranging concert, touring and recording repertoire, including Bach’s B Minor Mass and Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, culminated in the acclaimed 2023 recording and film of the Duruflé Requiem in Paris’s St Eustache.

In 2012, Layton pioneered the audio live-streaming form, and in 2019 launched video livestreams, taking every note of Trinity Choir’s music to audiences around the world.

Stephen will continue at Trinity until the end of the 2023 academic year. His last concerts with the Choir will be on a tour to Germany this summer, where they will perform the Duruflé Requiem in six concerts, including at Frankfurt Cathedral.

His plans over the coming months include returning to Sydney Opera House to conduct the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducting the annual St John Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and, after Easter, returning to the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, with Polyphony and Britten Sinfonia.

Stephen Layton said:

The time has come for me to move on from Trinity College, Cambridge and pursue my own guest-conducting career, something I have always hoped to do. It has been a joy and an exceptional privilege to work with The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge for so many years.  I am extremely proud of what we have achieved together.

Beyond the services, discography, technological advances and touring successes, it is the students who form the major part of my legacy: those members of this extraordinarily gifted group who changed the nature of a ‘College choir’ into a leading artistic professional beacon on the world stage. I warmly wish them rich success for the future and I know that they will go from strength to strength.

Stephen Layton has introduced a vast range of choral works to the UK and the rest of the world. His close associations with some of the greatest established composers, including Arvo Part, and the late John Tavener, and also emerging composers including Ēriks Ešenvalds, Uģis Prauliņš, Paweł Łukaszewski and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, have given rise to a whole new sound-world which has transformed the choral music landscape.

In 2003 he edited, choreographed and conducted the world premiere of John Tavener’s seven-hour vigil Veil of the Temple, working closely with the composer to realise the work which Tavener described as ‘the supreme achievement of my life.’ Stephen subsequently led the American premiere of the work at New York’s Lincoln Center.

In 2022, Stephen was made Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Derby.

Stephen will continue to direct Polyphony and the Holst Singers, and education will remain a major focus as he continues to deliver masterclasses and workshops at colleges and conservatoires around the world.

Trinity College will begin its search for a new Director of Music in due course.

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