NemesisRider
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I’d like to begin this post with a disclaimer - this is not representative of how all the auditions were run, this is just my personal experience at one college in one year. And now...

Oxford Choral Auditions Explained

Introduction

Many Oxford colleges have choirs, but some have choirs where all or some of the singers are sponsored by the college - these singers are choral scholars. The benefits of a choral scholarship vary from college to college. In general, you can expect to receive a certain amount of money, but some colleges will provide free singing lessons, free formal meals or other perks. The colleges detail on their websites how many scholarships they give out as well as which voice parts these correspond to - for example, currently University College offers 6 scholarships of unspecified voice part whereas Keble offer 2 of each for the soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts. The level of commitment varies from a service a week to 5 services a week. Lastly, some choirs are male only (New and Magdalen) so be aware of this in your application. The audition process, occurring in mid-September, is about two weeks after the deadline for applications closes – this post will talk about how it runs and what you’ll be required to do.

The Schedule (my experience)

The 2020 entry auditions involved being in Oxford for 3 days and had relatively small amounts of fixed commitments. During your time in Oxford your food and accommodation is catered for free of charge by the college, however transport must be arranged and paid for by applicants. The first day started with people arriving at their college for a set time. Immediately after arrival at our college, we were given room keys at the Porter’s Lodge and a chance to drop off our bags. The applicants first convened for a college tour, where we were shown most of the highlights alongside key practice rooms – this is mostly so you know your way round and to put any initial nerves at ease. Our evening involved a meal in hall, a 10-minute rehearsal with our accompanist (everyone mostly used this to practice their main piece) and the pre-audition. Following this, the evening was free; at Univ our lovely choral helpers took us to G&Ds for ice cream!

The second day started with breakfast and a 20-minute rehearsal to practice the piece and aural exercises. Audition times varied from around 10:00-18:00, with each last around 10 minutes with 10 minutes of preparation time before to run the piece and read the sight singing. Lastly, some colleges ended the day with a rehearsal and service such as compline, starting around 7pm. To my knowledge, the compline performance was not assessed and simply a taster of the services you would be part of as a choral scholar.

On the last day some candidates had extra auditions, but many had free time until leaving at 12pm. Overall, the process leaves plenty of time to make friends with the other applicants, visit different places in Oxford and complete academic work if necessary. As a tip, it may be useful to check with the porters about any extra auditions; whilst your college should notify you by text about these, a note was sent to the Porters’ Lodge for some applicants to inform them about other college auditions.

The Audition (and the pre-audition)

The audition process remained similar between all colleges. In your audition, you sing a prepared piece, tackle a piece of sight singing, and complete some aural tests. The pre-audition had nearly identical content but was in a less formal setting with only one choral director. In the pre-audition candidates were only asked to sing a small part of their piece (e.g. just the start).

In the sight singing for the real audition, candidates were given the piece 10 minutes before the audition in a room with a piano. This is an ideal time to figure out any strange intervals within the piece and familiarise yourself with the basics (key signature, time signature). In both audition and pre-audition, the sight singing was quite interactive with the piece sometimes being stopped if an error was made. Some were asked to identify their error before continuing, to test your awareness of what you should have done. In the pre-audition the sight singing was not given with any time to prepare, but I found this didn’t make a huge difference. Regardless of your confidence with sight singing, I’d recommend not stressing too much about this part!

The aural tests had multiple parts. Firstly, a chord was played, and you were asked to sing back a specific note within the chord (e.g. the bottom note) - these chords ranged from 2 to 4 notes. Next was repeating a short melody played on the piano. The complexity was gradually built up with these exercises – don’t be worried by this, they just want to see how you respond to trickier work. Lastly, some candidates had their vocal ranges tested, mainly for the use of the choral directors.

College popularity

Some of you may consider popularity in your college choice - the more in demand your college, the greater chance of reallocation and the greater the competition. Due to the very small numbers of people who apply for the choral scholarships, the variance is high from year to year. During the 2020 entry choral trials, the most competitive colleges were overwhelmingly Queens and Merton – colleges with a strong choral tradition or additional perks are often the most popular. At other colleges the applicant numbers were much smaller at around 5 to 10 applicants total. Oriel, St Edmund Hall and Christchurch had the lowest number of applicants for 2020. Overall, I wouldn’t let demand dissuade you from applying for a choral scholarship at your favourite college if you know that is where you would be happiest!

Conclusion

Even if you’re not offered a scholarship, this is a perfect chance to experience a slice of Oxford life and maybe even make some choices regarding which college you want to apply for! However, a choral scholarship offer is conditional on an academic offer - for this reason, a college may offer up to three times more places than are available on the basis not everyone will get the academic offer. Additionally, if you missed out on the choral scholarship but are later successful on the academic offer, some colleges offer a small number of choral bursaries of a similar value where the only difference is you apply for them after starting at the college/University.

I hope you found this useful. Happy singing!

External Links Catalogue:

These two pages include the application form as well as more details about each college and useful information such as what to sing for your auditions:

General choral admissions info (plus application form) - http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/under.../choral-awards

Faculty of Music choral admissions info - https://www.music.ox.ac.uk/apply/und...choral-awards/

More college details can be found on the college websites under the music sections. In alphabetical order, of the colleges officially offering scholarships through the main application form:

Brasenose - https://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/current-stu...c/scholarships

Christ Church – (no dedicated page)

Exeter - https://www.exeter.ox.ac.uk/applican...choral-awards/

Keble - https://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/about/mus...-scholarships/

Magdalenhttps://www.magdalencollegechoir.com/choralscholarships

Mertonhttps://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/join-college-choir

Newhttps://www.newcollegechoir.com/choralscholarships

Oriel https://www.oriel.ox.ac.uk/life-orie...hoir-and-music

Queen’shttps://www.queenschoir.com/choral-scholarships

St Edmund Hall - https://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/study/under...l-scholarships

St Peter’s - https://www.spc.ox.ac.uk/choir-and-organ

Somerville - https://www.some.ox.ac.uk/living-her...-scholarships/

Univ - https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/live-at-univ/music/

Worcester - http://worcesterchapel.org/joining-the-choir/
Last edited by NemesisRider; 1 year ago
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Oxford Mum
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NemesisRider

This is great! Could I please use this as a separate chapter in Oxford Demystified?
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NemesisRider
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Go ahead! Choral scholarships are not something that many students are aware of, so hopefully we can encourage some broader awareness!

To any people who’ve just been introduced to the concept, That Oxford Girl’s post about choral scholarships gives some extra insight about choral scholarships generally which may be of interest: https://www.thatoxfordgirl.com/post/...l-scholarships
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Oxford Mum
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Fantastic thread, and already 350 views!

Will add it to the book.
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LaGataSonriente
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
Go ahead! Choral scholarships are not something that many students are aware of, so hopefully we can encourage some broader awareness!

To any people who’ve just been introduced to the concept, That Oxford Girl’s post about choral scholarships gives some extra insight about choral scholarships generally which may be of interest: https://www.thatoxfordgirl.com/post/...l-scholarships
May I ask what it is like to audition for the choir but not as a choral scholar? Purely to be a normal member of it. I am not a confident solo singer but enjoy choral singing so am unsure if I would have the confidence to audition.
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by LaGataSonriente)
May I ask what it is like to audition for the choir but not as a choral scholar? Purely to be a normal member of it. I am not a confident solo singer but enjoy choral singing so am unsure if I would have the confidence to audition.
You can audition when you get there if you like. My son, who has a very good singing voice, wanted to audition, but was suffering from fresher's flu so lost his voice!

I suggested he auditioned for the Gilbert and Sullivan society (as his late grandma really enjoyed being a member). He did so and became secretary of the society. It's a lot of fun, isn't very demanding of your time and you can meet people from other colleges. You also don't need to read music either.

Good luck.
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K-Man_PhysCheM
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(Original post by LaGataSonriente)
May I ask what it is like to audition for the choir but not as a choral scholar? Purely to be a normal member of it. I am not a confident solo singer but enjoy choral singing so am unsure if I would have the confidence to audition.
Hi, I'm a choral volunteer at a Cambridge chapel choir (will be very similar to Oxford).

Definitely go for the audition!! Most directors of music are very friendly: they want students to join the choir after all!

The audition format for a choral volunteer would be much the same as for a scholar: sing a short piece (~3 mins), then they'll probably give you a mini singing lesson to see how you improve, then do some sight-reading and aural tests. The whole process is very friendly though (at least at Cambridge!) and you lose nothing by auditioning!
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by K-Man_PhysCheM)
Hi, I'm a choral volunteer at a Cambridge chapel choir (will be very similar to Oxford).

Definitely go for the audition!! Most directors of music are very friendly: they want students to join the choir after all!

The audition format for a choral volunteer would be much the same as for a scholar: sing a short piece (~3 mins), then they'll probably give you a mini singing lesson to see how you improve, then do some sight-reading and aural tests. The whole process is very friendly though (at least at Cambridge!) and you lose nothing by auditioning!
Exactly. I would have a go, personally. You may never get the same chance again!
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NemesisRider
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Many of the scholarship auditionees I spoke to had done singing grades 6 and above, with many working at grade 8 standard. However, this isn't a requirement, more of an idea of where you roughly need to at in terms of the technical aspect of singing. Levels of experience amongst scholars will vary, so if in doubt I'd say to give it a try!

Regarding non-auditioning choirs, I believe K_Man's description would be spot on for Oxford too. For example, I understand Wadham has a non-auditioning choir where to join you just need to speak to the musical director beforehand and you can then sort something out. They probably will still get you to sing, mainly to understand your voice better, though it would be more casual than the choral scholarship auditions.
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
Many of the scholarship auditionees I spoke to had done singing grades 6 and above, with many working at grade 8 standard. However, this isn't a requirement, more of an idea of where you roughly need to at in terms of the technical aspect of singing. Levels of experience amongst scholars will vary, so if in doubt I'd say to give it a try!

Regarding non-auditioning choirs, I believe K_Man's description would be spot on for Oxford too. For example, I understand Wadham has a non-auditioning choir where to join you just need to speak to the musical director beforehand and you can then sort something out. They probably will still get you to sing, mainly to understand your voice better, though it would be more casual than the choral scholarship auditions.
I have a feeling that Pembroke may be similar...
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LaGataSonriente
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Thank you all so much, I will probably give it a go when I get there then!
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K-Man_PhysCheM
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
Regarding non-auditioning choirs, I believe K_Man's description would be spot on for Oxford too. For example, I understand Wadham has a non-auditioning choir where to join you just need to speak to the musical director beforehand and you can then sort something out. They probably will still get you to sing, mainly to understand your voice better, though it would be more casual than the choral scholarship auditions.
Just to clarify some potential confusion here.

I was not talking about non-auditioning choirs, but rather what it's like to audition for an auditioned Chapel choir in Cambridge for a volunteer place rather than for holding a choral award (and the tl;dr is both are the same but the volunteer audition is more chill).

I've gone through both. I was previously a choral scholar but I then rescinded the scholarship to sing in a different college's choir (of a higher standard). At Cambridge, there is no real difference between choral scholars and choral volunteers: both get free singing lessons, free meals / formal halls, etc... The only difference is that the choral scholars are expected to make as full commitment as possible, inc. preparing music beforehand if they are not the strongest sight-readers, and are paid a small stipend.
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NemesisRider
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^ Ah, fair enough, thanks for clarifying. I must confess, I don't know the ins and outs for all Oxford choirs. I am aware some choirs at Oxford consist of choral scholars but also have additional places where get some perks like free formal hall but not the stipend - that might be the closest comparison to a choral volunteer?
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K-Man_PhysCheM
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
^ Ah, fair enough, thanks for clarifying. I must confess, I don't know the ins and outs for all Oxford choirs. I am aware some choirs at Oxford consist of choral scholars but also have additional places where get some perks like free formal hall but not the stipend - that might be the closest comparison to a choral volunteer?
Yeah that's probably it then!

E.g. if we look at Brasenose's website: https://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/current-stu...c-at-bnc/choir

they say the choir has "regular membership of between 35 and 45", but the scholarship page says there are 8 choral scholars and 4 exhibitioners, so that means that most of the choir are just "volunteers" as we might call them in Cambridge.
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krinyapajti
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
Go ahead! Choral scholarships are not something that many students are aware of, so hopefully we can encourage some broader awareness!

To any people who’ve just been introduced to the concept, That Oxford Girl’s post about choral scholarships gives some extra insight about choral scholarships generally which may be of interest: https://www.thatoxfordgirl.com/post/...l-scholarships
You're right there, not gonna lie I'm a current music offer holder and I literally had no idea choral scholarships existed
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by krinyapajti)
You're right there, not gonna lie I'm a current music offer holder and I literally had no idea choral scholarships existed
I am glad to see the amount of interest in this very useful thread!
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NemesisRider
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Depending on which college you have an offer from you may still be able to apply for a choral bursary in October! They might not be able to give a complete answer but if you look online you should be able to find the email addresses of people who you could ask for more details about that (e.g. choir director).
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by NemesisRider)
Depending on which college you have an offer from you may still be able to apply for a choral bursary in October! They might not be able to give a complete answer but if you look online you should be able to find the email addresses of people who you could ask for more details about that (e.g. choir director).
That's very interesting to know!
Nearly 500 views for this thread already. There is a lot of love for this topic. NemesisRider
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Lesevans
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Which colleges at Oxford are less competitive for a choral award?
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by Lesevans)
Which colleges at Oxford are less competitive for a choral award?
Anything that isn't a choral foundation (so Magdalen, Christ Church or New), or Worcester or Queen's

EDIT: I think Merton is more competitive these days too, come to think of it...
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