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Choral Music


Before the completion of the Cathedral of Seville (1401-1517) solemn worship was already being held there, as recorded in the chapter minutes of 1478, and Gregorian chant was part of its daily solemn liturgy. Polyphony was also joined in the most important celebrations of the year, which was entrusted to the music chapel; a choir that rehearsed at the time in the Chapel of the Granada, located in the Patio de los Naranjos and would say the chapel master.

The name capilla (for rehearsing in one of the Cathedral’s chapels) has survived to the present, but its constitution has varied throughout history, since, until well into the 20th century, it was made up of tiples, altos, tenors and basses, and from then on tenors I, tenors II, baritones and basses. In addition, a little before the middle of the 16th century, the shawm chapel (ministriles or chirimías) was already established as a permanent and regular group in our Cathedral.

This orchestra sometimes played, as an independent group, in processions, at the entrance and exit of the capitulars in the choir, and on other required occasions. At times, he alternated verses with the chapel in some of the psalms, magnificats, salves, responsories, hymns and other compositions. When the 17th century arrived, the minstrels, who had enjoyed independence and depended on the oldest player, finally joined the music chapel, and in the 18th century they were replaced by violins and other instruments, some of them still predecessors of the modern orchestra.

There are reports that underline the importance of the music chapel of the Cathedral of Seville; specifically in the time of Fernandez de Castilleja y Guerrero, and the, by then, the quality of its members was so remarkable that Philip II approached the Cabildo of Seville to borrow some of its singers for the ceremony of his coronation, held in Lisbon in 1581.

Alonso Morgado refers to this category and prestige when he affirms, in 1587, that “the music and chapel as well as the minstrels, shawms, sacabuches, baxon, flutes, cornets and all instruments, can compete with the best in all of Christendom, because there is no tax on the musicians, nor on their salaries, as their voices and abilities deserve it, adding to this the best of each day and perpetuities…. And so it is a thing of heaven, in this Holy Church, the softness of its music, and for always singing in it the music of those masters who have composed the best”. Ortiz de Zúñiga underlines the same a century later (in 1697): “…the chapel of music, and singers, with their chapel master, some of them honored with the title of racioneros, and all of them sought and maintained with very large stipends, to which are added those who in secular state serve the instruments, all of them forming a very authorized chapel, to which only the Royal can give in Spain”.

The music chapel has been nourished by a series of works belonging to very different periods and styles: from the 16th to the 20th century. The music archive of the Cathedral of Seville has about 3,000 works, of which about 150 are gathered in 20 polyphony books, located between the mid-sixteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, to which we must add another 1800 collected in loose parts (pieces “on paper”).

This ample accumulation of preserved works reached our archives through two different channels: Some were composed by the chapel masters directly for liturgical or paraliturgical functions, or to offer them to the Chapter and thereby obtain some supplementary economic aid from time to time; and others were simply copied from the repertoire of the most important national and foreign composers, commissioned by the Chapter and under the judgment and tutelage of the chapel master, in order to have at hand a useful and affordable set for the various liturgical celebrations of the Cathedral.

We end this brief exposition on the music chapel with all the known names that served as titular chapel masters; they amount to 26 in total and are the following: Alonso de Alva (1503-1504), Juan Valera (1505-1507), Pedro Escobar (1507-1514?), Pedro Fernández de Castilleja (1514-1574), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), Ambrosio de Cotes (1600-1603), Alonso Lobo (1604-1617), Fray Francisco de Santiago (1617-1644), Luis Bernardo Jalón (1644-1659), Juan Sanz (1661-1673) Miguel Tello (1673-1674), Alonso Xuárez (1675-1684), Diego José de Salazar (1685-1709), Gaspar de Úbeda (1710-1724), Pedro de Rabasa (1724-1757), Francisco Soler (1757-1767), Antonio Ripa (1768-1790), Domingo Arquimbau (1790-1829), Francisco Andrevi (1830), Miguel Hilarión Eslava (1832-1846), Evaristo García Torres (1864-1902), Vicente Ripollés (1903-1909), Eduardo Torres (1910-1934), Norberto Almandoz (1939-1960), Ángel Urcelay (1960-1980), and Herminio González Barrionuevo (1984-). We have dispensed with those who held office on a temporary basis by order of the Cabildo.


Gregorian chant or canto-llano has in our Cathedral the importance given to it by the fact that it is the ordinary chant for the choral office, the one normally used in the Hours and sung parts of the daily Masses.

The origin of these melodies flows from Jewish synagogues, which the Christian people copy to express their own religious feelings, creating little by little new melodic turns, called idiotic songs, all of them born from private inspiration. They are a kind of hymns or psalms, many of which last until today, as for example the Gloria in excelsis Deo.

There are also other letters, which are not taken from Sacred Scripture, in which doctrinal errors sometimes creep in, thus generating great concern among the Bishops. Saints such as Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory the Great (organizer and compiler of the chant that bears his name) defend the legitimacy of these letters, once the errors they contain have been eliminated. San. Isidore of Seville will tell us categorically: “If only the texts of the inspired books were to be admitted in worship, almost all the pieces of the liturgical books, such as the prayers, would also be forbidden”. Music with a synagogue flavor is already being accommodated, which we can appreciate today in the Visigothic liturgy used in our Cathedral at the Mass of San Isidoro, on May 26th.

Gregorian chant is of great simplicity but rich in piety. It includes bilingual liturgical use, as we still do today in the Kyrie, or in the trisagio Aguios O Theos. Gradually, like any artistic evolution, Gregorian music adapts to different periods and styles.

In the Cathedral of Seville, since the time of Alfonso the Wise, as Morgado tells us, “the music can compete with the best in all of Christendom”, and soon the figure of the Sochantre, assistant to the Chantre, appears, especially dedicated to the teaching and responsibility of the canto-llano. He is required in different Statutes: “instruction in canto-llano and figurative singing, clear, sonorous and full-bodied voice”.

The history of the sochantres and musicians of our Cathedral has been long and qualified. The sochantre is assisted by the psalmist as well as by the rest of the cantor’s offices. The execution of the Gregorian that is performed in our Cathedral is Roman, following the Benedictine transcription of Solesmes.

After the Second Vatican Council, Gregorian chant has suffered a certain exclusion from many churches and monasteries. In our Cathedral we continue to maintain it with dignity, thanks especially to the efforts of these technicians, with the desire to save this artistic treasure that should and can be made compatible with the best participation of our people in the Liturgy.


Cathedrals always had, for the polyphonic singing required by the solemn liturgy, a choir of male voices, which in the Renaissance was called the Music Chapel and was formed by tiples, altos or altos, tenors and basses, later becoming tenors I, tenors II, baritones and basses. It remained so until well into the second half of the twentieth century.

With the application of the liturgical norms of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council (5, XII, 1963) and of the Musicam Sacram, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship (5 March, 1967), a new epoch began in the choral music of the liturgy and naturally also in that of our cathedrals.

In fact, the cathedrals were gradually adapting to the new guidelines of choral liturgical singing in the Church, which admitted the presence of women as active members and participants, with full rights, not only in singing, but also in other offices and ministries within the Church liturgy, such as those of lector, acolyte, choir director, organist, animator of the singing of the assembly, etc.

The Cathedral of Seville officially joined this new reality in October 1985, with the creation of the Coral Polifónica de la Catedral de Sevilla, although some mixed voice choirs had already participated on isolated occasions and sporadically, and the girls had been part of the escolanía de los seises for at least a couple of years. The aforementioned polyphonic choir is composed of about fifty mixed voices of amateur singers, and was created when Herminio González Barrionuevo, canonical Chapel Master, took charge of the polyphonic music of the Cathedral of Seville (December 15, 1984), performing for the first time in the procession and in the pontifical solemn mass of the day of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1985).

The basic function of our choir is none other than to interpret the liturgical music of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Seville in the important feasts during the year, as well as in those other occasions in which the Archbishop and the Metropolitan Chapter deem it convenient and thus require it. Specifically, it usually performs at the pontifical masses on Immaculate Conception Day (at 9.50 am), Palm Sunday (at 9.50 am) and Easter Sunday (11.30 am), at the solemn mass on Holy Thursday (at 5 pm), at the divine offices on Good Friday (at 5 pm), at the mass and solemn procession of Corpus Christi through the streets of the capital (from 8.30 am to 12 noon), etc.

The repertoire of the Cathedral Polyphonic Choir is basically the one traditionally practiced in the cathedral liturgy throughout the centuries, especially after the liturgical reform of St. Pius X (1903), counting among the composers several names belonging to the Renaissance, Classicism, Romanticism and XX Century; emphasizing also the presence of the Renaissance composers of the Spanish golden period, such as Morales, Guerrero and Victoria.

The repertoire takes into account, as it is natural, the contribution of the masters of the Cathedral of Seville, and therefore we have dusted off and restored, among others, the motet Conceptio tua for 4v and basso continuo, by Evaristo García Torres, with which the procession of the day of the Immaculate begins; the motet-sequence Lauda Sion for 4v by Domingo Arquimbau that is interpreted in the statio of the Corpus Christi procession, traditionally located (since the Renaissance) in the Plaza de San Francisco; etc.

Although the purpose of the Polyphonic Choir of the Cathedral of Seville is fundamentally liturgical, and more specifically the liturgy of our Cathedral, this does not prevent it from occasionally participating in some important celebrations of the Brotherhoods and Confraternities of the capital. It has done so, for example, in those of San Juan de la Palma, del Museo, Esperanza Macarena, Cristo de Pasión, Estudiantes, Siete Palabras, Santa Marta, Jesús Resucitado, Virgen de la Paz, etc… It has even moved to some towns, inside and outside the province, to solemnize, with its polyphony, special celebrations.

With this, we intend to make it known and appreciated by the public that cannot attend, ordinarily, the divine offices of the cathedral of Seville.


If you are someone who appreciates sacred music, you can become part of the Polyphonic Choir of the Cathedral of Seville, provided you meet the necessary requirements: having a sufficient and suitable voice, good ear and musical memory, perseverance, and experience in choral singing. If you meet these criteria, you are always welcome.

Interested parties can call: 954 21 49 71

Responsible for the activity: Mr. Francisco José Cintado Briceño, Chapel Master and responsible for the polyphonic performances in the choral acts, as well as advisor to the Chapter in liturgical singing.

You can also apply for membership using the following form: