Musica Beata was established in early 1994 by two undergraduates of Magdalen College, Oxford – Nicholas Brown and David Mumford. Their intention was to provide an opportunity for young singers of a high standard to rehearse and perform music at a professional level in concert format. They hoped to encourage the singing of quality chamber music in a serious but relaxed atmosphere. It is within that spirit that the choir still operates.
Originally Beata specialised in the field of English music throughout the ages. Early concerts featured the works of Tallis, Byrd, Purcell, Vaughan Williams and Britten. The choir then diversified, looking to the work of lesser known European and American composers such as Zdenek, Kverno and Pinkham, and has performed a very wide range of both sacred and secular music, as well as new music, and pieces written specially for the choir. These twin strands of the secular repertoire and new music are key parts of the group’s identity, coming together in the recent commissioning of a new work from Nicholas Brown which was premiered at a concert at the 2011 Three Choirs Festival.
Since then, direction has been the responsibility of Mark Chaundy and Catherine Pate, before being taken over by several generations of Oxford organ scholars: Philip Stopford at Keble, Steven Grahl at Magdalen, and finally Ed Lewis at Pembroke. It then returned home, to the most beautiful college in Oxford, under the direction of one of its former members, Paul Hedley.
Since 2003, it has been working with Peter Hanke doing workshops that use Choral conducting as an analogue for business leadership, exploring the nature of management and leadership through gesture. The ensemble is now professional, and performs regularly in various guises.