Organ Scholars

There are two Organ Scholars who assist the Director of Music in the running of the Choir. They accompany the Choir in its daily round of services and assist in the training of its Choristers at St John's College School. St John's boasts an impressive line of former Organ Scholars – see below and on our alumni page.

If you are interested in becoming an Organ Scholar please visit our Becoming an Organ Scholar page.

James Anderson-Besant – Herbert Howells Organ Scholar

James Anderson-Besant is the Herbert Howells Organ Scholar at St John's College, Cambridge, where he is in his final year studying Music. James has performed in live broadcasts of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, and especially looks forward to playing for St John’s’ Advent Carol Service live on BBC Radio 3 in 2019. His playing for the Choir will feature in a number of upcoming CD releases, including a première recording of music by Michael Finnissy.

James also enjoys conducting, organising and directing a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in 2019, with plans to conduct Bach’s St John Passion in 2020. He recently gave recitals at King’s, Queens' and St John’s Colleges as well as Truro and St Albans Cathedrals, and looks forward to upcoming engagements at Stockholm Cathedral and Trinity College, Cambridge. James won second prize at the 2019 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, and was also Organ Scholar for the Charles Wood Summer School and Festival in Armagh, giving him the opportunity to work under David Hill and Philip Scriven.

James was a music and academic scholar at Abingdon School, and in his final year was Organ Scholar of the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford. He spent his gap year as Organ Scholar of Gloucester Cathedral, where he accompanied services sung by all four cathedral choirs, helped train the choristers and assisted in a primary school singing outreach programme. James’ year at Gloucester was especially historic due to the addition of the first ever girl choristers in the cathedral’s history.

For seven years James learned the organ with James Brown, and he now studies with Stephen Farr. He would love to pursue a career in cathedral music.

George Herbert – Junior Organ Scholar

George is the Junior Organ Scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, in which role he accompanies the Choir whilst reading for a degree in Music at the University of Cambridge.

George’s passion for music was kindled in earnest whilst he was a chorister at Manchester Cathedral from 2010-14, during which time he began his studies at Chetham’s School of Music. After leaving the Cathedral Choir aged 13, George was a principal study trumpeter at Chetham’s, and achieved DipABRSM in the instrument with distinction at 15. His principal studies were organ and voice throughout his time in the Sixth Form there. In this period, he performed Poulenc’s Organ Concerto with Chetham’s Chamber Orchestra at Manchester Cathedral following success in the school’s Concerto Auditions - the first Chetham’s organist to do so. He is a keen chamber musician and worked closely with his peers as an accompanist and continuo player at the school.

Between 2016 and July 2019 he was the Organist at St Peter’s Church in Hale, as well as the Frederick Bridge Organ Scholar at Manchester Cathedral, where he frequently accompanied and directed the Cathedral and Voluntary Choirs under the mentorship of Christopher Stokes, who was also his organ teacher at Chetham’s. In the summer of 2017, George was a quadruple prize-winner of the Associateship diploma of the Royal College of Organists, and in 2018 he was highly commended at the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition.

The Organs

St John’s has two organs. The main organ was built by Mander and Sons in 1993. Although largely new, the instrument incorporates parts of the previous Hill organ and subsequent alterations, including the famous Trompetta Real, several Swell stops and much of the Pedal division. You can find the specification of the Mander organ below. There is more information on this organ on the St John's College website.

In addition to the main organ, a three-stop transposing chamber organ for smaller scale repertoire was completed by Vincent Woodstock in 2010.

The St John's Mander Organ

The Mander Organ, St John's College Chapel

Previous Organ Scholars

  • 2015 Glen Dempsey
  • 2013 Joseph Wicks
  • 2012 Edward Picton-Turbervill
  • 2010 Freddie James
  • 2008 John Challenger
  • 2007 Timothy Ravalde
  • 2005 Léon Charles
  • 2004 Paul Provost
  • 2002 John Robinson
  • 2000 Jonathan Vaughn
  • 1999 Christopher Whitton
  • 1997 Robert Houssart
  • 1996 Iain Farrington
  • 1994 Peter Davis
  • 1993 Allan Walker
  • 1991 James Martin
  • 1990 Philip Scriven
  • 1988 Alexander Martin
  • 1987 Andrew Nethsingha
  • 1985 Robert Huw Morgan
  • 1984 Philip Kenyon
  • 1983 James Cryer
  • 1981 Andrew Lumsden
  • 1980 Adrian Lucas
  • 1978 Ian Shaw
  • 1976 David Hill
  • 1974 John Scott
  • 1971 Jonathan Rennert
  • 1967 Stephen Cleobury
  • 1963 Jonathan Bielby
  • 1960 Brian Runnett
  • 1956 Peter White
  • 1953 Alan Hemmings
  • 1952 David Lumsden (Assistant Organist)
  • 1951 James Bennett
  • 1947 George Guest
  • 1941 James Brown

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Recorded on
23 February 2020



  • Responses: Tomkins (Peterhouse)
  • Psalm 109 (omit vv. 5-19) (Barnby, Hylton Stewart)
  • Stanford in B flat
  • MacMillan: O give thanks unto the Lord
  • Hymns 341, 461 (tune: Corvedale)
  • Preacher: Professor Deborah Howard - Professors Professing: The Human search for God - Architecture
  • Voluntary: Allegro Maestoso (Sonata in G) - Elgar

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