Ascension Day

Thursday, 21 May 2020 -
10:30am to 7:30pm
The Ascension Day Carol

Our Ascension Day services include Sung Eucharist at 10:30, the singing of the Ascension Day Carol from the tower at 12, and Festal Evensong at 6:30 pm.

All are welcome to join us for any of these services: enter through the College's Great Gate on St John's Street.

The custom of the Ascension Day carol dates from 1902 and was begun by the then Director of Music, Cyril Rootham, following a conversation with Sir Joseph Larmor. Sir Joseph was insistent that a choir on the top of the tower would not be heard from the ground. Rootham was keen to prove him wrong and saw Ascension Day was the obvious time to do it. Without telling anyone apart from the members of the choir, they ascended the tower and as the clock finished striking noon, they started to sing an Ascension Day motet. To Rootham’s delight, he saw Sir Joseph open his window in the courtyard below to see where the music was coming from. The event proved very popular as people gathered below to listen and since then it has been repeated every year.


St John's College Chapel
St John's Street
United Kingdom

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Latest release

Ash Wednesday
February 2020

Ash Wednesday is the first album on the 'St John's Cambridge' label to present a live service broadcast in its entirety.

Latest webcast

Recorded on
23 February 2020



  • Responses: Tomkins (Peterhouse)
  • Psalm 109 (omit vv. 5-19) (Barnby, Hylton Stewart)
  • Stanford in B flat
  • MacMillan: O give thanks unto the Lord
  • Hymns 341, 461 (tune: Corvedale)
  • Preacher: Professor Deborah Howard - Professors Professing: The Human search for God - Architecture
  • Voluntary: Allegro Maestoso (Sonata in G) - Elgar

Latest news

USA Tour Cancellation

Owing to the emergency restrictions in place during the current Coronavirus pandemic, St John’s College regrets that the Chapel Choir is unable to tour to the United States of America at this time.

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer