Oxford University Choral Singing Summer School 2020


This is an intensive residential course for select singers who are looking to develop choral musicianship skills within a small choir typical of those found in many of Oxford University’s colleges and chapels. Up to eight successful applicants per voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) combine to form the course’s 30-voice ensemble. Studying and living in Oxford’s former Anglican monastery, now a Private Hall of the University of Oxford, students are immersed in the riches of the English choral tradition, especially music associated with Oxford - a city and university famed throughout the world for its excellence and history in choral music. The beautiful buildings of St Stephen’s House include some of the university’s finest acoustics for music and provide an atmosphere of serious study whilst being set in a vibrant quarter of the city. Applications are especially welcomed from students, educators and other able singers who already possess good musical skills.

Hear some recordings from previous years here.

Programme details

Details of the study repertoire for 2020 will be announced in late Spring of 2020. It will be drawn from the English choral tradition and will include a number of works that fall outside the standard canon, together with those that appear more frequently on Oxford college chapel music lists. Repertoire in past years has included Sarum chant and anonymous medieval pieces together with polyphonic works by Sheppard, Parsons, Gibbons, Taverner, Crotch, Handel, Ouseley, Stainer, Walton, Rubbra and Part.

Seminar rehearsals are held each weekday morning from 10.15am to 12 noon and each weekday afternoon from 2pm to 3.30pm, each following a set theme. The remainder of the afternoon is for individual study or for exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city. There is an evening session daily after dinner, from 8.30pm - 9.30pm, on a variety of themes. An introductory session on the first Sunday evening opens the course which concludes with a performance event on the Saturday before the final dinner. Students depart after breakfast on the final Sunday. This course runs in parallel with the Composing for Choirs course whose students are included in the vocal ensemble.


Session Themes:


Plainchant and medieval music


Music of the Sixteenth century


Sessions with Stephen Darlington


Music of the Seventeenth to early Twentieth centuries


Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries



On successful completion of the Summer School, all participants will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Completion.

Please note that this course does not offer any form of official credit to participants.


Description Costs
Programme Fee 1: Tuition, Full Board, Ensuite Accommodation £1595.00
Programme Fee 2: Tuition, Full Board, Standard Accommodation £1485.00
Programme Fee 3: Tuition, Full Board, No Accommodation £1275.00


Up to six partial funding scholarships may be awarded. Applicants should complete all the mandatory elements of the application as shown above and should additionally submit the following:

1. A personal statement that outlines the value which the course might be expected to have to the candidate, especially as to why it presents opportunities that may not otherwise be available. This should also state how the candidate’s experience or abilities would enhance the group.

2. A statement written by a teacher, colleague or associate that outlines the suitability of the candidate for a scholarship.

Please note that any application for scholarship funds must be made in conjunction with your original application to the course. A funding application cannot be made after a self-funded place has been offered.

The majority of the fund will be allocated within the first cohort of admissions (closing date: 31 January 2020). Applications received by this date will have the greatest opportunity for funding to be awarded. 


Dr Stephen Darlington

Distinguished Guest Tutor

Dr Stephen Darlington is one of the UK’s leading choral conductors. He was Director of Music and Tutor in Music at Christ Church from 1985 until 2018. Previously he was Master of the Music at St. Alban’s Abbey and Artistic Director of the world-famous International Organ Festival. He established Christ Church as an acknowledged centre of academic musical excellence, and maintained the highest choral traditions of the Church of England in the Cathedral. He is renowned for his direction of choral music of the 16th century, and of modern sacred music, with an extensive discography including several award-winning recordings. He has collaborated with distinguished contemporary composers such as Judith Weir, John Tavener and Howard Goodall. He is the holder of a Lambeth Doctorate.

Dr James Whitbourn

Tutor and Course Director

Dr James Whitbourn is a Research Fellow of St Stephen’s House, Oxford and a member of the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford.  As composer, conductor and producer, he has three GRAMMY® nominations amongst many international awards. A graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, his career in music began in the BBC, for whom he has worked as composer, conductor, producer and presenter. His largest composition is the concert-length choral work Annelies, which sets words from The Diary of Anne Frank. Other notable works include Luminosity, Son of God Mass for saxophone, choir and organ and The Seven Heavens for choir and orchestra - a portrayal of the life of C. S. Lewis in the imagery of the medieval planets. His choral works have been presented on acclaimed recordings, including five complete discs of his choral music, and are regularly performed throughout the world.

Course aims

The course, through practical seminars with the whole choral group, or sections of it, provides context and depth of understanding to music drawn from the English choral tradition composed over the course of several centuries. Its lessons of broad musicianship and choral skills will be transferable to many other traditions of choral music.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Click 'apply' above to download an application form.

Prospective students must supply:

  • A completed application form

  • Personal statement of all musical experience, including (but not exclusively) choral or other singing experience

  • An unedited audio or audio-visual (preferred) recording of up to 5 minutes.

Your recording does not need to be a professional recording: a recording made on any standard device (eg iPhone, iPad or other tablet) is all that is necessary. This should be uploaded onto YouTube or similar and a link supplied. The purpose of this information is to achieve a well-balanced choral ensemble.

Please note that samples may be emailed separately to

Level and demands

The Department cannot accept applications from any person under 18 years of age.