Hitting the high notes: Cambridge choir sings from top of 163ft tower to carry on 120-year tradition

Raising their voices - the choir of St John's College
Raising their voices - the choir of St John's College Credit: PA Images

A choir has sung from the top of a 163ft tower in an unusual tradition that was started in 1902 to settle a dispute over whether it would be heard from the ground.

The singers climbed the spiral staircase of St John’s College Chapel tower in Cambridge to mark Ascension Day - which marks the Christian belief in the ascension of Jesus into heaven, 40 days after his resurrection at Easter.

Each year, members of the choir of St John’s sing the Ascension Day carol from the rooftop.

The tradition began after a conversation between the then director of music Cyril Rootham and a fellow at the college, Sir Joseph Larmor, who insisted a choir singing from the top of the tower would not be heard on the ground.

The choir at the top of St John's College Tower Credit: PA Images

Mr Rootham proved Sir Joseph wrong after arranging for a choir to climb to the rooftop and sing without telling anyone.

One of the choristers who sang on Thursday, Arthur, said there was a “great view” from the rooftop.

The 10-year-old added: “It felt amazing because there was a great sound echo.”

Fellow chorister Amelia, 11, added: “It was so cool to know that everyone was watching you from the ground while we were so high in the sky.

“I really loved seeing for miles and being able to see everything around.”

Christopher Gray, the leader of the Choir of St John’s, has been in his new role for one month.

He said: “During those four weeks it has been a joy to get to know the extraordinary musicians who sing in the College Choir, and to experience the excitement about climbing to the top of the tower that is such an iconic part of the Cambridge skyline.”