INFORMATION FOR PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES
Organ Scholars are students (usually undergraduates) who direct or assist with the music in a college chapel. The nature and scope of the responsibilities varies from college to college. In addition to organ playing abilities, competence in choral direction and (to a lesser extent) administration are typically needed. In some colleges, the organ scholar may also act as an organizer of musical activities more generally.
In all, there are 23 colleges in Oxford which offer organ awards.
They are: Balliol, Brasenose, Christ Church, Corpus Christi, Hertford, Exeter, Jesus, Keble, Lady Margaret Hall, Lincoln, Magdalen, Mansfield, Merton, New College, Oriel, Pembroke, Queen’s, St Edmund Hall, St Peter’s College, Somerville, Trinity, University, and Worcester College.
Organ scholars take charge of, or assist with, the music of the college chapel. The scope of the responsibilities and the nature of the duties vary from college to college, but in most cases require competence as organist, choir trainer and (more modestly perhaps) administrator. In a number of colleges, the organ scholar also acts as an organizer of general musical activity. There is a modest fee paid, but in a number of colleges this is supplemented by additional payments for services rendered and by fees for special events. Many colleges also pay for organ tuition.
Information on exact dates can be found here.
All undergraduate organ scholars read for an honours degree. The combination of academic study and practical music offers invaluable experience for a later career, not necessarily in music (let alone simply in church music).
The colleges may be grouped into two basic categories:-
First, there are those where the organ scholar is in charge of chapel music. These are Balliol, Corpus Christi, Exeter, Hertford, Jesus, Lincoln, Pembroke and Trinity Colleges. The duties here range from one to three services per week.
Secondly, there are those where the organ scholar assists a professional Director of Music. These are Brasenose, Christ Church, Keble, Lady Margaret Hall, Magdalen, Mansfield, Merton, New, Oriel, Queen’s, Somerville, St Edmund Hall, St Peter’s, University and Worcester Colleges. In this second group, the range of commitment varies widely from two services a week to nearly daily commitment at the Choral Foundations (Christ Church, Magdalen, and New Colleges).
You are advised to consult college websites or contact college Directors of Music and Chaplains to find out full details of the commitment required of organ scholars in different colleges. It is possible for you to visit colleges in the term before the auditions.
The 2019 Organ Awards process takes place between 23 and 25 September. It is possible to enter also the comparable competition at Cambridge, which takes place during the first half of the same week. Candidates may apply for scholarships available in the following year and/or the year after that.
At the audition candidates are required to play an organ piece of their own choice and four tests: sight-reading of a short organ piece; score-reading of a four-part vocal score (SATB using G and F clefs); transposition of a hymn tune up or down a tone or semitone; harmonization of a melody. Some candidates will be required to conduct a short choir practice with boys or mixed voices as appropriate.
Candidates for organ scholarships are usually at about grade 8 standard in organ playing, with those applying to the Choral Foundations at or approaching diploma standard.
Applicants in most subjects are examined academically at the time of the auditions through interviews and other tests if relevant. Candidates applying to Archaeology and Anthropology, Computer Science, Computer Science and Philosophy, Engineering, Fine Art, Law, Medicine, Modern Languages, Physics, Physics and Philosophy, and Oriental Studies are interviewed in December. You are advised to consult the admissions advice on the relevant subject webpages to find out what would be required of you. If you apply to read Music you will be required to submit examples of recent essays and (if possible) harmony and counterpoint in advance of the interviews and auditions. All candidates are required to complete a UCAS form once the outcome of the process is known.
If successful, an offer of an Organ Award may be subject to A-level (or equivalent) conditions or other academic requirements; where there is a standard written test for a given subject, an offer of an organ award will usually be conditional upon satisfactory performance in that test.
Full information about Organ Awards and about the application process for them can be found at:
Here is the special online application form for organ awards. It includes detailed instructions on completion, on the choice of colleges, and on the nature of the examination. It must be submitted by 12 noon on 1st September 2019.