In all, there are fourteen colleges in Oxford which offer choral awards through the University’s choral-award scheme.
There are three choral foundations (Christ Church College, Magdalen College and New College) which sing daily services during Full Term (Christ Church sings longer terms including Christmas and Easter). These three choirs enjoy an international reputation. They also perform at concerts, tours, on radio and television, and make recordings. They comprise boy trebles (educated at the college schools) and adult male voices. At Christ Church and New College there are six “lay clerks” (i.e. paid singers) and six to eight choral scholars (or “academical clerks”). At Magdalen College, all are choral scholars. There are specific vacancies for altos (countertenors), tenors and basses (including baritones). The musical directors of the choral foundations are senior members of the University, as are the musical directors of The Queen’s College and Merton, which also undertake concert tours and recordings. At Queen’s and Merton, as at most other colleges, services are sung two or three times a week. At Worcester College there are boy trebles, in addition to sopranos. At all colleges, except the choral foundations, choral awards are offered to sopranos, contraltos, altos, tenors and basses.
Many other colleges offer opportunities to sing in their college choirs, but do not participate in the choral-awards scheme. Please see individual college websites for details.
For more detailed information on submission deadlines etc., please visit the University’s website.
THE CHORAL SCHOLARS
If you are appointed to choral awards you will sing in the college’s chapel choir under the direction of the director of music or organ scholar. There is a financial award, which is supplemented in some colleges by additional payments and fees for special events. Many colleges help pay for singing lessons. You can find out more by visiting the individual college websites.
HOW TO APPLY
There are two parts to the entry procedure – the choral audition and the academic interview (in December – as part of the UCAS admissions process). The audition is to assess your vocal and musical aptitude, while for the academic interview you will join all the other candidates competing for places at Oxford. In both September and December, you will be accommodated at your first choice college, which will pass on a detailed timetable closer to the time. There are two separate application forms: a choral application form and the UCAS form. If you click on the link below you will also find there detailed instructions about the choral application form – its completion, on the choice of college, and the audition. You should submit it by noon on 1 September. A few days after the choral audition you will receive a letter telling you whether you have reached a standard to be considered for a choral award. Of course, this refers only to the choral award – since there has been no academic interview at this stage. UCAS forms should then be submitted. The closing date is 15 October. It is only after the full admission procedure and academic interview in December that you will hear whether you have been offered a choral place.
The application form will be available here in Spring every year.
THE CHORAL AUDITION
The audition lasts approximately 10 minutes. In it you will be asked to sing a prepared piece and to demonstrate your musical aptitude through a few vocal exercises, ear tests and sight-singing. The College organists and tutors listening to you may ask questions to get a fuller picture of your musical interests and activities. College chaplains may also arrange to interview you during the audition period. You will need to bring two copies of your prepared piece (one for the accompanist and another for the examiner) as well as your own copy. For choral singers a quick ear and an aptitude for sight-reading are both important, especially in choirs that perform a large repertory. These skills need to be developed as much as the voice and vocal technique. They can be improved with steady work. Organists and tutors are aware that a candidate may have been singing for a relatively short period, and will take this into account. But a candidate ought to have had some systematic singing tuition before the audition. When you choose a piece to perform at the audition it is important to bear in mind range and technique. Select music that displays your vocal and musical capabilities to the full, without going beyond what your technique can support. You do not have to perform sacred music. It is better to sing a complete solo than a verse sections from a longer anthem. Remember a successful audition does not automatically mean that a choral award will be offered; this will depend upon the strength of competition from other candidates. You have to gain a place in open competition with others applying for the same honours degree course. Please consult the organist or music tutor of colleges offering choral awards for further advice.