Magdalen choir
Magdalen College choir.
(Credit: Owen Rees)

Choral awards

Choral scholarships are awards given to talented singers who wish to develop their choral singing while at Oxford as a member of their college chapel choir. There are 15 colleges in Oxford which offer choral awards through the University’s choral award scheme.

Choral award FAQs

What does a choral award involve?

The duties of a choral scholar are to sing in the chapel choir of their college. They sing for choral services and concerts, and many of the choirs also undertake tours and make CD recordings. The commitments for choral scholars vary widely between colleges, since some choirs are more active than others. The three choral foundations – Christ Church, Magdalen and New College – offer the busiest choral experience, performing almost every day during term-time. At other colleges the choirs sing between one and four services per week during term. Many of the choirs are professionally directed, and others are led by the college organ scholars. Choral scholars are also expected to participate in the wider musical life of their college.

The scholarships carries an annual financial reward, the amount varying from college to college. In addition, at many colleges choral scholars receive funding for singing lessons, and many excellent singing teachers work with the Oxford choirs.

Is there a choral awards open day?

The choral and organ awards open day will be held on Saturday 30 April 2022. Please see the Music Faculty website for details and to sign up.

Which choral awards are available for 2023 and 2024 entry?

College

2023

2024

Key: S=Soprano, A=Alto, T=Tenor, B=Bass
Brasenose12S, 2A, 2T, 2B2S, 2A, 2T, 2B

Christ Church

1A, 1T, 1B1A, 1T, 1B
Exeter8 in total8 in total
Keble8 in total8 in total
Magdalen
1A, 2T, 2B2A, 2T, 2B
Merton8 in total8 in total
New College
1A, 1T, 3B1A, 1T, 1B
Oriel6 in total6 in total
Pembroke10 in total6 in total
The Queen's College8 in total8 in total
St Edmund Hall1

8 in total

8 in total
St Peter's8 in total8 in total
Somerville8 in total8 in total
University College6 in total6 in total
Worcester8 in total8 in total

1 Brasenose and St Edmund Hall do not accept candidates to read Music.

How to choose which choral award to apply for?

You should consider what kind of choral experience you want while you are at Oxford. Decide whether you want to be a member of a choir that sings for a service almost every day or - at the other extreme - once a week. Think about whether you would like to be a member of a choir that has extra commitments beyond service singing, such as a regular schedule of concerts, CD recordings, tours and broadcasts.

Do I have to be at the college where I hold a choral award?

Yes, you do. Some choirs also have vacancies for singers from other colleges, although these singers do not hold choral awards.

Can I study any subject and hold a choral award?

Yes, you can, but it is important to check that all of the colleges which you intend to nominate on your choral award application offer places to study your chosen subject. See which colleges offer your course.

The award will last for the duration of your course. Those who take a year abroad as part of their course will retain their award once they return to Oxford.

Can postgraduates apply for choral award?

The choral award scheme is primarily intended for undergraduates, who will be students at Oxford for three or more years. Those applying to undertake postgraduate study and who are interested in choral awards should contact the director of music (or chaplain at colleges where there is no director of music) of the college(s) in which they are interested. Postgraduate lay-clerkships are often available at several colleges. Details can be found on college websites.

How can I make an application?

You must complete and submit an online application form by 1 September in the year in which you are making your academic application to Oxford. Please note that you cannot apply for choral awards at both Oxford and Cambridge. On the form you can choose up to ten colleges in preference order, and we recommend that you nominate at least three.

You will also need to arrange for a reference about you as a singer to be sent to the admissions office of your first-choice college by 15 September. This reference can be provided by, for example, your director of music at school, the director of a choir in which you sing, or your singing teacher if you are having lessons. No academic reference should be sent at this time.

Choral award auditions will take place on 26, 27 and 28 September 2022.  It is planned that this year’s auditions for choral awards will be held in person in Oxford. Almost all applicants will only need to attend on one day and will not need to stay overnight in Oxford.

Please do not submit your UCAS application until you hear the outcome of the choral award auditions.  You will then need to apply in the usual way for your course at Oxford, submitting your UCAS application by 15 October, with academic interviews in December. The choral audition is to assess your vocal and musical aptitude, while the academic interview will assess your suitability for your chosen course at Oxford.

What will I be asked to do at the audition?

Choral award auditions will take place on 26, 27 and 28 September 2022.  It is planned that this year’s auditions for choral awards will be held in person in Oxford. Almost all applicants will only need to attend on one day and will not need to stay overnight in Oxford.

If you are resident overseas and would be unable to attend the choral award auditions in person, please contact the Choral Awards scheme co-ordinator, owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk, for advice in the first instance.

The main audition lasts approximately ten minutes. In it you will be asked to sing a prepared piece and a prepared unaccompanied traditional song (folk song), and to demonstrate your musical aptitude through a few vocal exercises, ear tests and sight-singing. The director(s) of music listening to you may ask questions to get a fuller picture of your musical interests and activities.

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. 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 if you are not singing the piece from memory.

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. Directors of music 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.

For the traditional song:

• You may choose a song from the list below, or offer an alternative song. If you choose an alternative song, please write to owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk by 15 September to inform us what your chosen song is. Your choice should not be a hymn, a piece of plainsong/chant, or an arrangement that involves piano accompaniment. You can choose a song from any folk tradition and can sing in any language.

• If you choose to perform a song from the list below, please perform all the verses that are included in the edition provided here: Traditional song scores. If you choose an alternative song, the duration of your performance must be at least 1 minute and no more than 3 minutes; verses should be omitted as necessary in order to fit into the 3-minute maximum. 

•You may choose the performing pitch.

List of unaccompanied traditional songs (folk songs)

  • O Waly, Waly
  • The Salley Gardens
  • Scarborough Fair
  • The trees they grow so high
  • The lark in the clear air
  • The Ash Grove
  • Early one morning
  • Linden Lea
  • Drink to me only with thine eyes

When will I hear the result of the auditions?

A few days after the choral audition you will receive an email telling you whether you have reached a standard to be considered for a choral award at Oxford. This refers only to the choral award, since there has been no academic interview at this stage. You will then need to submit your UCAS application by the deadline of 15 October.

Please note that a successful choral award audition does not automatically mean that you will be offered a choral award. Although, as a result of that successful audition, you merit further consideration for a choral award, you must now be considered on academic merit for your proposed course at Oxford. You should also note that there can be no guarantee of an offer of a choral award, even if you are successful in gaining an offer of an academic place at Oxford: among the choral candidates retained from the September auditions by a particular college there may be a range of vocal ability; inevitably, colleges will fill their choral scholarship vacancies in December with the strongest singers who also gain an academic place at that point. It is only after the full admission procedure and academic interview in December that you will hear whether you have been offered a choral award.

How to find out more about choral awards?

The choral and organ awards open day will be held on Saturday 30 April 2022. Please see the Music Faculty website for details and to sign up.

Enquiries may be directed to the University Coordinator of the scheme, Prof. Owen Rees, owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk, or to the Faculty of Music, academic.admin@music.ox.ac.uk.

Details of the choirs and choral awards at the colleges which participate in the scheme can be found here:

Brasenose, Christ ChurchExeterKebleMagdalenMertonNew CollegeOriel, PembrokeThe Queen’s CollegeSt Edmund HallSt Peter’sSomervilleUniversity College and Worcester.