History of the Choir

One of Princeton’s Premier Choral Ensembles

Organ and choral music are an important part of the Chapel program. They have both come a long way since the days when Yale’s President Ezra Stiles after a visit in 1770 declared the organ in Nassau Hall ‘an innovation of ill consequence,’ and when John Adams, later president of the United States, reported after his visit to Princeton in 1774, ‘The scholars sung as badly as the Presbyterians in New York (from A Princeton Companion by Alex Leitch, 1958).’

For 136 years after the College of New Jersey was founded, students were required to attend morning prayers (originally 5AM) and evening prayers daily, and morning and afternoon services on Sunday. By 1915, all required attendance at weekday services was abolished and in 1964, required attendance at Sunday chapel ended. The Chapel Choir has been an integral part of worship, especially in the present Chapel, which was dedicated in 1928. Over the years, the Choir has evolved from a male chorus that sang sacred music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras to a mixed choir whose repertoire extends from Gregorian Chant to the music of Dave Brubeck.

The Choir is unique on campus in being the only singing group that is paid for its services. This factor was especially popular when Chapel attendance was required. The Chapel Choir offers singers the chance to explore a varied and rich repertoire of sacred music, with special focus on artists who have historically been marginalized within the Western art music tradition. The choir provides music for the Ecumenical Chapel Worship Service, Opening Exercises, Baccalaureate, and the annual Service of Remembrance, as well as special concerts throughout the year.  The Choir also sponsors a variety of events in the Chapel, including the presentation of a silent movie (usually The Phantom of the Opera or Hunchback of Notre Dame) with organ accompaniment and a Messiah Sing. Singing with the Chapel Choir is about more than music, though: it is an opportunity for rest, renewal, and connection—a chance for singers to be valued for who they are, not just what they do. Admission to the Chapel Choir is by audition with Nicole Aldrich, Director of Chapel Music and of the University Chapel Choir.  Would you like to audition for Chapel Choir? Please contact Dr. Nicole Aldrich - naldrich@princeton.edu.