At the outbreak of World War II the college was evacuated, but while other choirs disbanded, GCU continued to rehearse and perform in central London. Since then, GCU has built up an enviable reputation as a choir of enterprise, first under the baton of Mr Haggis and later under that of its present Music Director, Brian Wright. Uniquely in 80 years, GCU has had only two Music Directors.
Today, as an independently governed, self-financing organisation, GCU works hard to ensure that it continues to promote concerts in London's major performance venues with professional soloists and orchestras, performing a broad spectrum of music.
GCU's performances of works from the traditional choral repertoire, ranging from Handel's Messiah to Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, have been praised for their freshness, clarity and emotional commitment. Equally, GCU seeks to perform less familiar works, such as Franz Liszt's oratorio Christus and Sir Michael Tippett's The Mask of Time. British premières given over the years include Stravinsky's Les Nocesand Mahler's Das Klagende Lied, and the first UK broadcast of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. More recently GCU has given London premières of Neil Jenkins's English translations of classic German oratorios, including Bach's Passion settings and Haydn's Creation and Seasons. GCU’s concert on 2 April 2008 at the Barbican Hall included first London performances of Jenkins’s versions of Bach’s Easter and Ascension Oratorios.
GCU proudly supports young up-and-coming musicians. Felicity Lott, Ann Murray, Bryn Terfel, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Thomas Allen all featured as soloists with GCU both at the outset of their careers and subsequently, as did Kathleen Ferrier and Peter Pears before them.
In the past few years GCU has toured in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, and has part-sponsored a high profile annual concert under Brian Wright in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s International series at the Royal Albert Hall, including acclaimed performances of the Berlioz and Verdi Requiems.
In its eightieth anniversary season, GCU performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the Royal Festival Hall, Handel’s Messiah - twice - at the Royal Albert Hall, Carols for choir and audience at Cadogan Hall, and Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, Gounod’s St Cecilia’s Mass and Duruflé’s Requiem at St John's, Smith Square on 23 May.
Next year’s programme will begin with a further prestigious event at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday 16 October 2013 at 7:30pm featuring Constant Lambert: The Rio Grande; Elgar: Cello Concerto; and Walton: Belshazzar’s Feast.