General Information

Choral Scholarships are offered by the Chapter of Durham Cathedral to students who obtain admission to the University. It is essential that candidates should be academically equipped to follow their chosen course of study at Durham, and those who seem unlikely to meet the Colleges’ academic requirements for admission will not be accepted as candidates for a Choral Scholarship. It is generally not possible to combine the duties of a Choral Scholar with certain academic subjects (the Sciences, and those Social Sciences which involve laboratory work). Choral Scholarships only remain tenable on condition that the holder retains his or her University place for the duration of the Scholarship.

Auditions will be held in March 2019; there are vacancies for one tenor and one bass.

Application Process

Applicants for a Choral Scholarship must make two applications, one for a Choral Scholarship and one for admission to the University (unless admission has already been gained); the applications will be dealt with separately as set out below, though with close liaison between the offices concerned.

Application for a Choral Scholarship is made on the application form and is returnable by 5pm on Sunday 10 March 2019: later applications will be considered only if practicable. Please email [email protected] to request an application form.

Candidates are examined in ear tests and sight-reading, including 16th-century polyphonic music in either English or Latin. They should also prepare a solo which would be suitable for singing in the Cathedral and bring two copies of their music with them. They will be interviewed by the Organists of the Cathedral and a member of the College of Canons.

Those applying now for deferred University admission in October 2020 should not apply for a Choral Scholarship until the Autumn of 2019.

As far as University admission is concerned applications will be considered by departments in the usual way and it is likely that decisions on the University applications of most Choral Scholarship candidates will have been made before the date of Choral Scholarship interviews.  It is expected that applicants for Choral Scholarships called for interview in March 2019 will include those to whom offers of University admission have been made (whether conditional or otherwise) together with any others on whom the University has not yet made a decision.  If the University has decided by then not to make an offer of a University place, any application for a Choral Scholarship will be regarded as lapsing, and the candidate will be so notified.  Given that University decisions will normally be made first, it is unavoidable that Choral Scholarship candidates will usually have to come to Durham for interview on two separate occasions.

Applications for Choral Scholarships will also be welcomed from students already in residence.  They will be required to attend the interviews for the Scholarship at the same time as other applicants.

Enquiries relating to the terms of Choral Scholarships or to the examination should be referred to the Music Administrator, Mrs Rebecca Dodd, The Cathedral Office, The College, Durham, DH1 3EH, [email protected] who will be pleased to help.


Conditions of Choral Scholarship

The following details are provided for your information:

  1. The emolument of a Choral Scholarship is currently £1,584 in the first year, £1,888 in the second year and £2,203 in the third year and any subsequent years. It may be held in conjunction with local authority or other similar awards.  Additional to these payments are the out-of-term emoluments (see page 2 section 8).

  1. Choral Scholars keep the following terms (referred to as “Choir terms”):

  • The start of University induction week until 25 December;
  • The first day of the University Epiphany Term until Easter Sunday (with variations dependent upon the date of Easter);
  • The Sunday before the Easter Term (adjusted according to the date of Easter) until the third or fourth Sunday of July.

  1. During these terms Choral Scholars are required to take part in the musical services of the Cathedral and to attend choir practices under the direction of the Organists as shown in the timetable below. Evensong is normally sung every day except Monday, and on Sunday mornings Matins and Eucharist are also sung.  There are occasional extra services, a few arranged at short notice, over and above the regular services.  In addition, the Choir normally goes into the Diocese twice a year to sing a service or a concert.  It also takes part in the Northern Cathedrals Festival each year and combined-choir Evensongs with the choirs of Newcastle Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.  There is no additional remuneration for these occasions, except for weddings and funerals.  Recordings and broadcasts and concerts within the Cathedral itself take place from time to time and these are separately remunerated.

The normal weekly schedule is currently as follows:

Sunday                       9.05 – 9.50                   Practice

                                       10.00                             Matins

                                       11.15                               Sung Eucharist

                                       3.00 – 3.20                  Practice

                                       3.30                               Evensong

Monday                    Normally free

Tuesday,                   4.40 – 5.05                Practice

Wednesday              5.15                             Evensong

and Friday

Thursday*                4.30 – 5.00               Practice

                                      5.15                             Evensong

(Lay Clerks and Choral scholars only on Thursdays)

Saturday                  4.40 – 5.05                 Practice

                                      5.15                              Evensong


*If Evensong is sung by the Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars only on a different day then the Thursday timetable is used.

  1. Special requests for permission to be absent from any service or rehearsal should be made to the Organist and will be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

  1. Contracts relating to recordings, broadcasts or outside engagements of the Choir are made with the Chapter. Any fees arising from these are paid to the Chapter and remitted to those taking part.

  1. The Chapter, on the recommendation of the Organist, will arrange singing lessons, free of charge, for Choral Scholars during their periods of residence.

  1. The normal practice is for Choral Scholars to live in their College during their first year. During the period of “choir term” which follows the end of the University term the Chapter undertakes to pay the cost of residence for those periods outside University term when Choral Scholars are required to be in residence.

  1. In addition the Chapter will pay a maintenance allowance (£20 per day) during the periods of “choir term” which fall before and after University term.

  1. Choral Scholars have the right to make formal representations to the Chapter; general pastoral oversight is carried out on their behalf by the Canon Precentor, Canon Michael Hampel, who will always be prepared to see them on any matter.

A Choral Scholarship is terminable at three months’ notice in writing either by the Chapter or by the Choral Scholar.

The Cathedral Choir (which consists of boy Choristers, girl Choristers, 6 Lay Clerks and 6 Choral Scholars) plays a unique part in the life of the Cathedral, which dates from 1093.  This building, with its shrines to Saints Cuthbert and Bede, is a powerful and historic symbol at the heart of City, County and Diocese.  Its worship has gone on continuously for nine centuries, and for almost all of that time music has been an integral part of that worship.  The choir sings a wide, varied and constantly changing repertoire of music which spans most of the centuries; music has been written specially for the Cathedral by John Tavener, Francis Grier, John Casken, John Rutter, James MacMillan and others.  Besides all this, the choir adults are a sociable team who play a unique part in music-making in Durham both inside and outside the Cathedral.

This is a golden opportunity for good musicians who have fine voices, first-class sight-reading skills and the commitment and ability to form part of a close-knit team.

Successful candidates will be required to undertake a DBS check and sign a declaration under the terms of the Children Act 1989 and a code of conduct before the Scholarship takes effect and before joining the choir.