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

James Anderson-Besant (c) Benjamin Ealovega
Assistant Organist

James Anderson-Besant is currently the Assistant Organist at St John’s, having completed three years as Organ Scholar while studying for a degree in Music, in which he graduated with a double starred first. In his role as Assistant Organist he accompanies the Choir in its daily round of services, regular broadcasts, recordings and tours under the direction of Andrew Nethsingha, and also assists in the training of the choristers. James has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, and his playing for the Choir appears on the recent releases Pious Anthems & Voluntaries, Ash Wednesday, and Advent Live – Volume 2. This year he is also supervising Cambridge music students in counterpoint and keyboard skills.

James also enjoys conducting, having organised and directed performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in 2019 and St John Passion in 2020. He has also directed the St John’s Sinfonia in a Bach Cantata evensong. James recently gave organ 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. He 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 pupil 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 at Gloucester Cathedral, which was especially exciting 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. In September 2021, he will become Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral.

George Herbert

George Herbert
Herbert Howells Organ Scholar

George is the Herbert Howells Organ Scholar at St John’s, where he is in his second year studying Music. Born in Manchester in 2001, his passion for music was kindled in earnest when he started singing in Manchester Cathedral Choir aged nine.

He joined Chetham’s School of Music at this time too, where he studied trumpet after leaving the cathedral’s choir. During this time, formative experiences included playing in a fanfare brass group alongside the Gabrieli Consort in their recording An English Coronation, involvement with the school’s orchestras and big bands, and participation in music therapy and community music projects. He focused on organ and singing in his time in the school’s Sixth Form, and returned to Manchester Cathedral as Organ Scholar. He played Poulenc’s Organ Concerto with Chetham’s Chamber Orchestra, and enjoyed working closely with his peers as an accompanist and continuo player.

He now studies organ with Colin Walsh and piano with Keval Shah.  Since his first year, he has been a pianist in Pembroke College’s Lieder Scheme, for which he takes part in song masterclasses with pianist Joseph Middleton. He is co-Musical Director of the Gentlemen of St John’s for the academic year 2020-21.

George is a firm believer in music’s power to work for the broader social good, and is studying for a dissertation on the music of the 1960s’ American Civil Rights Movement. He is also a passionate environmentalist, and co-founded the new Cambridge musicians’ climate action group Singing for Survival in 2020.

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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