Organ Scholarships

 

Organ Scholarships at Worcester College, Oxford

An organ scholarship at Worcester College offers a musical training and experience which is unique in Oxford.

Worcester College was founded in 1714 on the site of a Benedictine house of studies which itself was founded in 1283. Today its beautiful eighteenth-century Chapel is home to a varied and dynamic music programme of services and concerts, run by a team made up of the Director of Chapel Music and organ scholars.

Worcester College maintains two choirs who share the duties of singing services in the chapel week by week. Two services per week are sung by the choir of boy trebles and choral scholars, and two are sung by the mixed choir of undergraduate sopranos and choral scholars.

K T Bruce PhotographyOrgan scholars at Worcester College are therefore involved in four choral services per week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday).

The coexistence of the two choirs provides a unique opportunity for organ scholars at Worcester College to learn their musical skills for a career in music. Students have a real opportunity to develop all of the skills of a musician including: organ and keyboard playing, continuo realisation, conducting, working with boy trebles, and training and rehearsing a choir.

The level of responsibility offered to organ scholars and the level of commitment required to fulfil the role provides a distinctive opportunity for the life of an undergraduate student reading music. The schedule of services and extra event means that scholars are busy performing to professional standard but there is the opportunity for students to become involved in other extra-curricular activities alongside their scholarship duties and academic work.

Duties

Organ Scholar Julia Alsop working on repertoire for the mixed choir’s latest recording

The life of a Worcester organ scholar is busy, varied, and demanding. Organ scholars work under the supervision of the Director of Chapel Music (Thomas Allery) and are part of a closely knit team which also includes the College Chaplain and tutor in music. This team provides support, training, and advice which allows students to develop all of the skills that they need in a friendly and professional environment.

The different activities of the two choirs and the number of services and engagements for the choirs means that the duties and responsibilities of a Worcester organ scholar falls somewhere between the college chapels entirely run by professional staff and those where an organ scholar runs the choir. By the time an organ scholar is in their third and senior year, they are able and encouraged to take a leading role in conducting, planning and training the choirs alongside the Director of Music and it is this responsibility with both the choristers and mixed choir that makes this such a unique opportunity.  The choirs at Worcester are auditioned and perform to a high standard, performing a huge span of repertoire including regular commissions.

A typical day for a Worcester organ scholar might involve (in addition to academic work): rehearsing a group of choristers, playing for Evensong, rehearsing with a choral scholar for a performance in a recital, posting something to the choir’s Twitter or Facebook page, having an organ, conducting, or singing lesson, conducting the mixed choir in Evensong.

Worcester College has a thriving Music Society which puts on weekly recitals to which the organ scholars regularly contribute (often as accompanists). Worcester is proud to offer students the resources, support and opportunity for its organ scholars to put on their own projects and performances should they wish to. In recent years this has involved concerto performances, playing continuo with period instruments, harpsichord performances and working with a consort of voices in close harmony.

 

Benefits

In recognition of the commitment of an organ scholar, and to enable students to develop a wide range of skills, Worcester College provides its organ scholars with:

  • Organ lessons
  • Conducting lessons
  • Singing lessons
  • A £200 stipend
  • A large suite of rooms in College with a piano
  • Free three-course meals after each service
  • Financial support towards study trips
  • Separate guidance and tuition towards organ diplomas
  • Annual tours with the choirs and regular trips within the UK and abroad

An organ scholarship at Worcester College provides a level of professional training which can lead to many careers. Although many of Worcester’s organ scholars have gone on to work directly in church music, former organ scholars of Worcester College have pursued careers in conducting, performing, teaching, academia, and various roles in the recording and broadcasting industries. Organ scholars in recent have left to take up positions and scholarships at Westminster Abbey and Wells, Worcester, Salisbury, Canterbury, and Ely Cathedrals.

The Director of Chapel Music, Thomas Allery ([email protected]) is always pleased to hear from and meet potential candidates, and is happy to answer any questions.