Becoming a Choral Scholar
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 and covers the costs of all Choir tours and external engagements. Choral Scholars also receive substantial fees for tours, concerts and broadcasts.
The Choir's routine
The regular weekly commitments for Choral Scholars include evening rehearsals and Evensong Tuesday-Sunday, and a morning rehearsal and Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings. There are tour and concert commitments, but these are spaced throughout the year and are arranged with care to ensure a healthy balance with academic studies. Unlike many other choirs of our nature, St John’s does not perform regular services throughout the Christmas and Easter seasons, which gives the whole choir more time to rest during these holidays.
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.
Dates for application to St John's for 2019 entry
- 5 May 2018: Choral Awards Open Day
- 15 September 2018: Deadline for applications for Choral Awards Vocal Assessment Days - a chance to sing informally to various Directors of Music and receive advice
- 24-26 September 2018: Attend Choral Vocal Assessments Days
- By October 2018: Apply for an academic place at St John's – Candidates should indicate on the form by ticking a box that they wish to be considered for a Choral Award.
- January 2019: Receive academic decision from St John's
- By 15 February 2019: Apply for a Choral Award – Those with a successful academic offer can then apply for a Choral Scholarship; if they have received an offer from another college, they may wish to apply for a volunteer choral position at St John's.
- 18-20 March 2019: Choral Auditions – Those with offers from St John's who expressed an interest in a Choral Award will be invited to audition.
The university also holds Cambridge Choral Experience Days every year for non-fee-paying secondary school students Years 7-13. The days for 2018 are Saturday 23 June for Years 7-10 and Sunday 24 June for Years 11-13, held in St John's College.
- Email the Admissions Department or call them on 01223 338703 for more information on the academic application process and College Open Days.
- 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.