Choral Scholar Profiles

  • Name: Trojan
  • Voice: Bass
  • Subject: Music
  • Year: 2nd
  • School: Eton College
  • Gap Year: No

Why did you want a choral scholarship?

I have always enjoyed singing, and it’s especially good fun when you’re with a group of people who share the same interests.

Why did you choose King’s?

Aside from the international reputation of the chapel and choir, for me the greatest appeal was being able to participate in an extraordinarily high level of music-making every day. Just being in such a historic chapel forces you to demand the most of yourself and it’s extremely rewarding.

Why Cambridge?

For music there’s nowhere better! The amount of student-led projects is simply amazing and the level of teaching is unrivalled.

What experience did you have before joining the Choir?

I started my music career as a chorister at Westminster Abbey before moving on to focus more instrumentally, but starting singing properly again in the last few years with my senior school choir.

How did you find the application process?

I’d heard that university applications were stressful, but I was pretty clear that I wanted to come to King’s so that took a lot of confusion out of the process.

How did you find the auditions?

The time leading up to the auditions and results was certainly more stressful than the day itself. When I got to the audition, Stephen was the only person there except the organ scholar and they were both very understanding and friendly. They want you to do your best too!

Do you have to give up a lot of time for Choir?

We do have to give up a considerable amount of time up for the choir – about 2 hours on weekdays except Monday and 3-4 hours on weekends – but it certainly doesn’t stop us from doing other things.

Does it affect your work?

Luckily for me, one of my first-year papers is on plainchant, and renaissance polyphony, so choir is just extra revision time… There is very little, if any, clash between choir and academic commitments. In fact, if the Choir were a college in itself, it would currently lead the Cambridge college academic rankings!

…and your social life?

Of course we get to know each other extremely well since we spend basically every day together, but there’s always plenty of time to meet up with other friends inside and outside of college.

What’s the music like? Do you have to sight-read a lot?

There’s a huge range of repertoire. One thing I particularly love is the plainchant we do for Eucharist, although it takes a switch of mindset to read the old neumes. You shouldn’t worry too much about having to sight-read on the spot since we get told all the term’s music in advance.

Do you get paid?

We get paid for all our concerts, broadcasts and recordings with the choir as well as gigs with the King’s Men, the choral scholars’ a cappella group. One big treat is being paid to go on tours!

What’s the best thing about singing at King’s?

Our regular choir slot provides a welcome break from the academic stresses of Cambridge. Although it’s certainly a lot of work, simply spending time in the chapel and creating music with friends is always something to look forward to at the end of the day.

…and the worst?

Those rare occasions when I’ve been lazy and really needed that extra two hours to finish an essay…

What other music do you do at Cambridge other than Choir?

I’m Music Director of the Cambridge University String Ensemble and regularly conduct for King’s College Musical Society (KCMS). As KCMS Concerts Manager, I’m involved in organising events throughout the year. I also read Music, so most of my life revolves around that!

Do you have time for anything else?

As a keen linguist, I have been studying Italian with the Cambridge University Language Programme (CULP) for the past year and was awarded a travel grant to Italy for an intensive language course this summer.

What have you gained from the choral scholarship?

The level of musicianship Stephen demands of his choral scholars is extraordinary, and it has already taught me a lot about performing as part of an ensemble. On a more practical note, it’s quite nice having a piano in your room for spontaneous renditions of Winterreise with your friends.

  • Name: Stephen
  • Voice: Baritone
  • Subject: Classics
  • Year: 3rd
  • School: Dean Close
  • Gap Year: No

Why did you want a choral scholarship?

I wanted to be singing every day, learning more about my voice and about working with other singers. I loved how busy choral scholars are and the opportunities they get to perform in some extraordinary places around the world. The radio and TV performances looked pretty fun too…

Why did you choose King’s?

The amount of singing we do is exciting. I also get to spend several hours every day in the Chapel. There’s a reason people travel all across the world to see it. King’s also has some of the best supervisors for my subject: people who are the authorities in their field.

Why Cambridge?

I like the Classics course in Cambridge far better than other universities. I also feel that, in and out of chapel, there is a very high standard of music (instrumental and vocal); you won’t find students of that standard anywhere outside conservatoires.

What experience did you have before joining the Choir?

I sang at school, and did bits and pieces at nearby cathedrals/churches. I’ve been set on opera for a while, so have been working pretty seriously on my voice for several years.

How did you find the application process?

The process of applying wasn’t difficult, and I instantly warmed to Stephen when I met him. He made me confident in my singing ability, which helped me focus my sights on getting an academic place.

How did you find the auditions?

A little stressful (especially since I think mine was quite early in the morning…), but since I’d sung and spoken to Stephen before doing my actual audition, I felt more comfortable.

Do you have to give up a lot of time for Choir?

It takes up a lot of your time, especially in the holidays. And I do think it’s best when you just embrace it and make the most of it. It’s only three years, after all.

Does it affect your work?

Occasionally you have to be quite careful about how you schedule your work. You will also never get as much done as people who want to spend their every waking hour in the library, but even the hardest worker needs an hour or two away to clear the mind!

…and your social life?

The Choir is a large part of my social life. Some of my closest friends are there, and you spend so much time with these guys it’s hard not to get to know them pretty well. I still have friends outside though, who I see fairly regularly. You just have to make sure you find a balance that suits you.

What’s the music like? Do you have to sight-read a lot?

In first year my sight-reading was atrocious: either I prepared a lot, or I made mistakes. After just a year, though, I can basically sight-read anything within the bounds of standard choral rep.

Do you get paid?

We get paid for concerts and broadcasts. If you’re careful, you can even get to the end of a tour having made a profit…

What’s the best thing about singing at King’s?

For me, the traveling, the places we sing in, and the amazing musicians you often cross paths with.

…and the worst?

Everyone has days where you don’t want to sing another service or spend another hour in the Chapel with the same group of people. It comes with the territory.

What other music do you do at Cambridge other than Choir?

I have sung in operas and various concerts as chorus and soloist. I try to keep working for recitals and competitions, when opportunities arise. Also, all the choral scholars sing in the King’s Men, our a cappella group.

Do you have time for anything else?

Well so much of my interests are what I do. I (mostly) love my work, and I want to sing professionally. I do occasionally read a non-academic book, go on a run/bike ride, or just watch a film with friends. Oh, and there’s always time to the pub.

What have you gained from the choral scholarship?

Great friends, a heightened sense of musicality, endurance, professionalism, sight-reading, voice-preservation….

  • Name: James
  • Voice: Tenor
  • Subject: Philosophy
  • Year: 3rd
  • School: The Grammar School at Leeds
  • Gap year: Yes

Why did you want a choral scholarship?

I’ve loved singing from a young age, and I thought King’s would be an amazing place to sing at a high level alongside a degree.

Why Cambridge?

Cambridge is a beautiful city, and I liked the sound of the philosophy course, but I primarily applied because I wanted to sing at King’s.

What experience did you have before joining the choir?

Whilst at school, I sang in a few operas with Opera North and was a member of the National Youth Choir. I also spent my gap year singing at Norwich Cathedral.

How did you find the application process?

I hated writing my personal statement, and was terrified before my interview, but in the end it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. The process is challenging but you just have to view it as an opportunity.

Do you have to give up a lot of time for choir?

Yes, but if you enjoy singing it’s worth it. Choir also becomes a pillar around which you can structure your day, and you become good at using the time you have to best effect.

Does it affect your social life?

Yes, but in a positive way. The choir members spend lots of time together outside of rehearsals and services. And there’s still plenty of time to do things with other people.

Do you get paid?

We get paid well for concerts, TV broadcasts etc. The King’s Men, our close-harmony group, is also a nice earner!

What’s the best thing about singing at King’s?

You never get tired of singing in such an iconic and beautiful building. There is also the opportunity to go on some amazing tours, and it’s quite exciting seeing yourself on TV! Other bonuses include the free singing lessons with great teachers, and the opportunity to work with some very high profile musicians.

And the worst…?

Sometimes, when you have deadlines looming, choir can feel like a bit of a chore. But all in all, the positives massively outweigh the negatives.

What have you gained from the choral scholarship?

I feel like I’m a much better musician than I was when I arrived. I’ve also become much better at managing my time and dealing with high-pressure situations.

  • Name: George
  • Voice: Countertenor
  • Subject: Classics
  • Year: 3rd
  • School: Eton College
  • Gap Year: No

Why did you want a choral scholarship?

I’ve been singing in choirs since I was eight and always loved it, so a choral scholarship felt like an obvious choice.

Why did you choose King’s?

The Choir’s history, reputation and the prospect of singing in the beautiful chapel on a daily basis all really attracted me to King’s.

Why Cambridge?

I was very keen to apply somewhere where I could try to pursue both my academic and choral interests to a high standard, and Cambridge seemed to be the perfect place to do this.

What experience did you have before joining the Choir?

I had been a chorister for five years, then sang in my school’s chapel choir and occasionally with the Rodolfus Choir in holidays during Sixth Form.

How did you find the application process?

Honestly, there is a lot of paperwork! There are lots of forms to be filled out and hoops to jump through – but at the same time it was very exciting to feel that you were getting closer step by step.

How did you find the auditions?

On the day of my audition I had come down with laryngitis and could barely sing a note in my countertenor voice, so ended up doing sight-reading and oral tests as a bass… Fortunately, Stephen Cleobury was extremely understanding and assured me that I needn’t worry about it since he had already heard me sing informally twice in the previous year. I can’t recommend enough how useful it can be to do that – just drop him an email!

Do you have to give up a lot of time for Choir?

Being in the choir is certainly a big commitment, but it becomes such an integral part of your routine that it doesn’t feel like lost time at all.

Does it affect your work?

As a bit of a procrastinator, the time-pressure that choir puts on my work definitely makes me more efficient. Having an enforced break from my work for choir often really helps to clear my head, too.

…and your social life?

The choir does very well as a social group in itself: we’ll usually go and eat together after services or rehearsals and we’re all quite good at spending time and money in the pubs and bars of Cambridge…!

What’s the music like? Do you have to sight-read a lot?

A great thing about King’s for me is the huge variety of music. Even if you’re not keen on the music for one particular service, we get through such a quantity that there’s always something to keep you interested. There is a lot of sight-reading, but the more you do, the better you get, and there’s always enough time to learn new pieces in advance of full rehearsals.

Do you get paid?

One of the biggest perks (and something I wasn’t hugely aware of when I was applying) is that we are paid very generously for concerts, recordings, broadcasts, and tours. The choral scholars’ close harmony group, The King’s Men, also helps to bring in some handy pocket-money.

What’s the best thing about singing at King’s?

I have to pinch myself every so often when I get to chapel for a rehearsal. Singing services there as part of my daily routine is a real privilege – and one that won’t last forever!

…and the worst?

I’m not a massive fan of the Sunday mornings, but worse even than that is the typical evensong/Premier League clash on the weekends, which makes it a lot more difficult to follow Arsenal’s latest struggles.

What other music do you do at Cambridge other than Choir?

I’m not the most all-round musician, but have got involved singing in a variety of concerts and performances with the college music society and around the university and hope to do some opera before long.

Do you have time for anything else?

I try to keep myself fit by going running or to the gym and, though I’d never act in one, going to see plays in my spare evenings.

What have you gained from the choral scholarship?

Aside from the very welcome top-ups to the bank account, the Choir also gives you the opportunity to do some incredible things while you’re still at university – from appearances on national TV and radio to tours across the world – and all alongside people I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.

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Am I right for King’s? How do I know if I'm the right standard? Read our frequently asked questions to find out more.
What can you expect from your time as a Choral Scholar at King's? Find out more about some of things you'll be involved with.
If you are a good singer and you would like to study at King's you may be eligible for a Choral Award with the Choir or King's Voices.
King's Voices is the mixed voice choir at King's, and has a regular programme of rehearsals and performances throughout term-time.

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