Becoming a Choral Scholar

The Gentlemen of St John's

There are fifteen male Choral Scholars at St John’s any one time, forming the alto, tenor and bass sections of the Choir.  Most are students at St John's College, although some may be studying at other Cambridge colleges.  Rehearsals take place each afternoon before Evensong during term, and on Sunday mornings before Eucharist.


Those applying to be St John’s Choral Scholars are expected to have a good voice, though not necessarily one trained in the choral tradition. Although a proficient sight-reading ability is desirable, it is not essential, provided that applicants demonstrate a strong work ethic and eagerness to improve.  Choral Scholars study a wide range of subjects and come from many different backgrounds, schools and musical experiences.  


The College funds singing lessons for all Choral Scholars with the Choir’s Vocal Consultant, Mr David Lowe, and covers the costs of all Choir tours and external engagements. Choral Scholars also receive substantial fees for tours, concerts and broadcasts. 


Alongside singing with the Choir, Choral Scholars are encouraged to develop singing activities outside the College and many choose to sing in the large number of operas and concerts which happen in Cambridge throughout the year.  Many former Choral Scholars are now musicians of international renown.  These include Simon Keenleyside, Iestyn Davies, Allan Clayton and Jonathan Nott.


As well as forming the back row of the Choir, the Choral Scholars also perform as a self-directed ensemble, The Gentlemen of St John’s. With a repertoire of music ranging from sacred music and folksongs to their prized close-harmony arrangements (mostly written by current and former members), the Gents is a very popular group in College.  As well as the legendary 5.00 a.m. slot at the St John’s May Ball and Christmas gig at the Maypole, the members of the Gents have a busy yearly schedule of touring, concerts and recordings which can number fifty external engagements.  The Gents have recently toured Singapore, Italy, Germany and Thailand and have recorded their ninth CD, Indulgence.  

I've never encountered more wonderful musicians and music-making

Simon Keenlyside (Chorister 1967-72, Choral Scholar 1980-3)

Step-by-Step guide for application to St John's for 2017/18

  • 15 September 2017: Deadline for applications for Choral Awards Vocal Assessment Days - a chance to sing informally to various Directors of Music and receive advice
  • 25-27 September 2017: Attend Choral Vocal Assessments Days
  • By 15 October 2017: Apply for an academic place at St John's – Candidates should indicate on the form (ticking a box) that they wish to be considered for a Choral Award.
  • January 2018: Receive academic decision from St John's – Students who apply to St John's but receive an offer from another college through the Winter Pool may be considered for a Choral Award. Students who do not receive an academic offer from Cambridge cannot be considered for a Choral Award.
  • By 15 February 2018: Apply for a Choral Award – Those with a successful academic offer can then apply for a Choral Scholarship or volunteer choral position at Cambridge.
  • 19-21 March 2018: Choral Auditions – Those with offers from St John's who expressed an interest in a Choral Award will be invited to audition.

Dates for application to St John's for 2018/19

The university also holds Cambridge Choral Experience Days every year for non-fee-paying secondary school students Years 7-13. The days for 2017 are Saturday 24 June for Years 7-10 and Sunday 25 June for Years 11-13, held in St John's College.

Current Vacancies

Please ask our Choir Administrator Caroline Marks about vacancies for 2018 entry.

Further information

  1. Email the Admissions Department or call them on 01223 338703 for more information on the academic application process and College Open Days.
  2. To find out more about being a Choral Scholar and any choral aspect of your application, email Andrew Nethsingha or you can call the Choir Office on 01223 338718.  We can also arrange for prospective Choral Scholars to meet our Admissions Tutor to discuss which subjects you might wish to study.

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Recorded on
17 November 2017

​This week's webcast features Pelham Humfrey's Evening Service in E Minor. Humfrey died at the age of 27, but exerted a strong influence on his peers even at his young age.

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On Thursday 26 October, the Choir performed the first commission of the term: 'The Banquet' by undergraduate Joanna Ward. The piece featured men's voices and a double bass, played by Joe Cowie, and it was funded with generous support from Paul & Joanna Lindsell and Jeremy & Jodie Podger.

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer