The Alto, Tenor and Bass parts are taken by young men who are usually Undergraduates at St John's and who are selected to their places in the College Choir as Choral Scholars. They study a wide range of subjects (all are available except Architecture and Veterinary Medicine) and come from a wide range of schools and backgrounds. "It's where Simon Keenlyside and countless others started. There's still no vocal training like it." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
All Choral Scholars in the University are given £100 per year but a Choral Scholar at St John's would also expect to earn substantial professional fees (at least £1500 per year) for all of the external engagements, to sing at and enjoy the College's major Feasts throughout the year and to be at the centre of the College's most special events such as at the visit of the Queen in 2011. They are also entitled to free singing lessons, usually taken with renowned teacher David Lowe, and access to the Song School with multiple practice rooms. Alongside their commitments to the College Choir, the men of the Choir also perform as The Gentlemen of St John's College, Cambridge.
The Gentlemen of St John's perform separately at around 50 external engagements per year (which adds significantly to their earnings!) as well as hosting their famous Garden Party and performing the final set at the St John's May Ball. Choral Scholars on average tend to earn in the region of a further £1500 per year from Gents engagements. As well as singing in the College Choir and The Gents, Choral Scholars often throw themselves into other aspects of College and University life – current Choral Scholars include the President of the May Ball, members of the College's 1st XV rugby team and of the prestigious Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, and they always maintain a strong presence on the University's concert and opera calendars.
I was automatically part of a group of 17 close friends... it definitely helped give my work structureFrancis WilliamsChoral Scholar 2007-2010
"Being in 'The Gents' is central to the Choir's integration and popularity within the College and I was automatically part of a group of 17 close friends before I had even arrived! Singing services 6 days a week sounds like a lot on top of a Cambridge degree but it definitely helped give my work the structure that it needed, especially doing an arts subject like Classics." Francis Williams, Choral Scholar 2007-2010.
Bursaries are available, from the College’s Choir Association to assist with expenses for taking part in other musical activities and furthering musical careers. Choral and Organ Scholars often go on to highly successful musical careers in many different fields: Alumni include Simon Keenlyside, Iestyn Davies and Allan Clayton (opera singers), David Pountney (opera director), John Scott, David Hill and Stephen Cleobury (conductors).
There's an incredible attachment and loyalty to the John's Choir. It's something you look forward to every day...Dominic CollingwoodChoral Scholar 2008-2011
As of 2012, Choral Awards at Cambridge are awarded after candidates have received an academic offer to study at Cambridge. The Cambridge Colleges will hold joint choral auditions in March to assess the vocal abilities of applicants for Choral Awards.
St John's and King's will also hold a two-day choral assessment for their men and boys choirs in September, prior to your Cambridge application via UCAS. This event will allow us to hear individual voices and to advise interested candidates about the nature of choral commitments at St John's and King's. Overnight accommodation will be available for those who need it. Each of the two days will include an opportunity to meet the Directors of Music of both colleges, to learn about the nature of their choral traditions, and to take part in a vocal assessment, much like the Choral Trials.
Those applying are expected to have an outstanding voice, though not necessarily one trained in the choral tradition, and an excellent ear. Good sight-reading is desirable though not essential if the candidate shows potential to improve and willingness to prepare music.
The collective vocal heft of the ensemble's young choral scholars remains a potent weapon under Nethsingha's directionClassic FM Magazine 2012
2015 entry – 2 Altos, 2 Tenors, 2 Basses
2016 entry – 3 Altos, 3 Tenors and 4 Basses
Andrew Nethsingha, the Director of Music encourages prospective Choral Scholars to come and sing to him at any time of year, before the vocal assessment in September. He can hear your singing, give advice and help you to get a feel for the particular ambience of the Choir. Please email Mr Nethsingha if you would like to arrange a time. He is also happy to arrange for prospective Choral Scholars to meet our Admissions Tutor to discuss which subjects they might wish to study and to meet some of the current Gents.