The Duke University Chapel Choir is one of the nation’s largest and most active university choirs. A “town and gown” group, its 100+ members include Duke students, faculty and staff, as well as other singers from the Duke and Triangle communities. The choir is led by Director of Chapel Music Rodney Wynkoop, assisted by Assistant Conductor Brian Schmidt. The accompanist is Chapel Organist David Arcus.
The Chapel Choir, along with the Schola Cantorum, sings anthems and leads the congregation in hymns in the Sunday worship services and various other Chapel services. It also presents two major concerts with professional orchestra each year. The choir’s annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, a tradition since 1932, pack the Chapel each December. The Spring Oratorio concerts feature other major choral works, from Bach to modern masterpieces.
The Chapel Choir has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Washington National Cathedral. It has also toured internationally in Poland, the Czech Republic, China, Spain, Austria, Greece, Turkey, as well as a tour of England that culminated in a performance of Handel’s Messiah at London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields, with members of the English Festival Orchestra.
In addition to its critically praised performances of Messiah, the Chapel Choir has performed many other major choral works with professional orchestra. In recent seasons, its repertoire has included:
- Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
- Duruflé’s Requiem
- Lauridsen’s Lux Æterna
- Fanshawe’s African Sanctus
- Mozart’s Requiem
- Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
- Poulenc’s Gloria
- Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem.
The Schola Cantorum, a 36-voice chamber choir from within the Chapel Choir, sings occasional anthems in the Sunday services. Rehearsals are scheduled as needed, and the repertoire consists largely of Renaissance motets.
From June to August, while the regular Chapel Choir is on hiatus, the Chapel forms a Summer Choir to sing at select services. Unlike the regular choir, Summer Choir has no auditions and requires no long-term commitments—it relies solely on the time and talents of volunteers. Anyone who shows on Sunday can robe up as long as the singer arrives by 9:15 a.m. for a rehearsal before the 11 a.m. service.