Becoming an Organ Scholar

St John’s has two Organ Scholars at any one time. Their duties are both to accompany the College Choir and to assist in the training of the Choristers. Organ Scholars will sometimes taking morning rehearsals at St John’s College School and conduct services from time to time.

A candidate for the Organ Scholarship should have a solid organ technique, good sight-reading, and the ability to improvise musically. They should also have an enthusiasm for choir training and for enabling the boys and men to perform at a high technical and musical level.  

The College encourages the performance of new repertoire and there is a fund available for the purchase of organ music. The College’s commitment to new music means that Organ Scholars have the opportunity to give first performances of new works by leading composers.

Organ Scholars also receive free Singing Lessons with the College's Vocal Consultant, David Lowe. 

The Chapel organ was built by the British firm N.P. Mander Ltd in 1994, using the cases designed by J. Oldrid Scott in 1889. It has four manuals and pedal and is well equipped with a palette of colours - including a trompeta real - to accompany the Choir in daily sung services and to perform a broad range of repertoire. You can find a full specification here.

Organ Scholarships are open to both men and women.  The College pays for organ and improvisation lessons and substantial performance fees are paid for the many ‘extra’ services and concerts which are undertaken by the Choir.  Organ Scholars also benefit from playing continuo with professional orchestras and ensembles.  Funds are also available to support Organ Scholars working towards their ARCO and FRCO examinations.

Most former Organ Scholars have gone on to pursue high profile musical careers - Stephen Cleobury, John Scott, David Hill, Andrew Lumsden, Adrian Lucas and Iain Farrington, as well as current Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha, were all Organ Scholars at St John’s.  A full list of former Organ Scholars can be found on the Choir’s website.

Here's a short feature of our new Junior Organ Scholar James Anderson-Besant, taken as he began his time here at St John's:

Our next Organ Scholarship vacancy will be for entry in 2021. Details about the application process will be made available in due course.

Further information about Cambridge Organ Scholarships can be found on the University Organ Awards pages.​To find out more about being a Organ Scholar and any musical aspect of your application, email Andrew Nethsingha or call the Choir Office on 01223 338718. We can also arrange for prospective Organ Scholars to meet our Admissions Tutor to discuss which subjects you might wish to study.

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Latest webcast

Recorded on
30 June 2019
  • Responses and Preces: Leighton
  • Psalm 148 (Robinson)
  • Fayrfax: Magnificat Regale
  • Nunc Dimittis primi toni
  • Weir: Vertue
  • Hymns 383 (omit v. 3), 401 (omit v. 3)
  • Voluntary: J.S. Bach Fugue in E flat major (BWV 552ii)​

Latest news

The Choir began work today on a recording of Michael Finnissy's Anthems and Voluntaries, to be released on the St John's label in 2020.

First premiered by the Choir at a special service in June 2019, the work has been three years in the making, Composer-in-Residence Michael Finnissy collaborating closely with the Choir on each of its nine movements.

Choral singing comes no better

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer