Choral Studies (Music)

visiting students

Choir of St Edmund Hall
Students singing in the college choir

We welcome enquiries from Visiting Students interested in studying Music at St Edmund Hall.

The course incorporates the skills and training gained through participation in the choral programme at St Edmund Hall directed by Dr James Whitbourn, Fellow and Director of Music at the college.

Course Description

The course incorporates the skills and training gained through participation in the choral programme at St Edmund Hall. Full membership of the college’s choir is a mandatory element for Visiting Students in Music. Through this programme, candidates acquire an on-going experience in choral singing and develop skills in sight-singing. The expected outcome of the course is the acquisition of advanced choral skills. The course is open to sopranos, altos, tenors and basses (or baritones).

The course is available only as a major study and is available only to those resident in Oxford as Visiting Students for all three terms of the academic year. No credit or transcript can be offered to any candidate studying for one or two terms only.

Outline of Teaching

Tuition takes place in Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity Terms and has two main components. The first is full membership of the college choir. Choral rehearsals are held each Saturday morning between 10:45am and 12:30pm and each Sunday from 4pm until 6pm. Choral Evensong is sung in the college chapel at 6:15pm each Sunday and there are occasional commitments at other times. The second component comprises weekly seminars covering the performance of plainchant, the reading of part books and reading sessions in choral literature.


Assessment of work within the college’s choral programme is continuous throughout the academic year and is made in the context of choir rehearsals and performances. This accounts for 50% of the total assessment mark. Additionally, each candidate will be examined in the following areas, prepared within the weekly seminars.

Practical (30%)
  1. Singing an extended solo passage in plainchant notation
  2. Singing from a facsimile choir or part-book of sixteenth or seventeenth century repertory
  3. Singing two prepared pieces of choral repertory (one from the sixteenth century, the other from the twentieth or twenty-first century). These pieces will be announced by the Director of Studies in Music at the beginning of Fourth Week of Hilary Term.
  4. Sight-reading of sixteenth or seventeenth century choral repertory from a modern edition.

Note: candidates will be assessed in accuracy of reading, accuracy of intonation, quality of vocal timbre, suitable approaches for ensemble singing and expressivity in performance.

Essay (20%)

Candidates must submit an essay of between 5000 and 6000 words on one of the subjects listed below. The essay must be their own unaided work. Some information and guidance will be given in the seminars, but candidates will be expected to conduct independent research into their chosen topic. Candidates are encouraged to make reference to specific works in relation to the topic chosen. The deadline for submission is noon on Tuesday of first week of Trinity Term 2024. Work must be submitted digitally in a single PDF.

Essay Titles
  1. The changing styles of Anglican liturgical choral composition since 1918.
  2. Editorial considerations in the transcription of sixteenth and seventeenth century choral music.
  3. The development of choral music in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Candidates should have some experience of ensemble singing, although not necessarily within any liturgical or sacred tradition. Evidence of an ability to read music (including at least a moderate level of sight singing) is also called for. Candidates must submit a self-filmed video of their singing with their applications, to include at least one unaccompanied piece (a professional recording is not required).

Key Reading

To be added

Students are encouraged to keep a portfolio of course materials, facsimiles, etc., which will be handed out in class

Visiting Students

More information about becoming a Visiting Student at St Edmund Hall – including finance, accommodation and how to apply

Find out more