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.

Video Series

Choral Scholarships at St John's

Join our Director Andrew Nethsingha and some of our current Gents as they take you around our College and show you what it's like to be a Choral Scholar at St John's.

Throughout this series, we have included a selection of pieces from our repertoire which feature in our albums, webcasts, and Virtual Chapel services. Do feel free to have a listen in full by following the links in the video descriptions.

Watch our video series here

Brochure

The Gentlemen of St John's

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.

To have sung in the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge was to be offered a glimpse of absolutely everything that music making could be; passion, commitment and emotion on a daily basis. I was the youngest ever chorister, starting at the age of 7 and later a choral scholar. Without question I owe every musical fibre of my being to this choir

Iestyn Davies MBE (Chorister 1987-93, Choral Scholar 1999-2002)

White Christmas

The Gents' latest disc, 'White Christmas'

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 recorded 10 CDs, most recently White ChristmasIndulgence, and Lazing.

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

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

Important application dates for 2021 entry

  • 25 April 2020: Choral Awards Open Day (cancelled)
  • By 15 October 2020: 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 2021Receive academic decision from St John's
  • By 15 February 2021Apply 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.
  • March 2021Choral 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 2020 were sadly cancelled, but the events are scheduled to resume in 2021. Please contact Caille Sugarman-Banaszak at cps29@cam.ac.uk for more details.

"It may seem daunting, but it will honestly be the best decision you have ever made"

Current Choral Scholar

Current Vacancies

For 2021 entry:

  • 2 Alto
  • 2 Tenor
  • 3 Bass 

Please email us for further information.

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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Latest webcast

Recorded on
6 October 2020

This webcast is the first service of the 2020/21 academic year, and the first Choral Evensong to be sung since 13th March. It therefore marks the end of an extraordinary period of silence in the Chapel's history, and the start of a very exciting, if challenging, new term.

Latest news

Logie Bruce-Lockhart © Anthony Kelly

We are saddened to hear of the loss of Logie Bruce-Lockhart, a former Choral Scholar (1940-46) who later became Headmaster of Gresham’s School (1955-82)

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer