A choral scholarship at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral offers an unparalleled opportunity to sing with an internationally renowned cathedral choir, to develop singing and musicianship skills through regular weekday services as well as concerts, broadcasts, recording and touring. Working alongside other students as well as more experienced singers, the cathedral is a welcoming environment for you to contribute to its tradition (unique in Scotland) of regular choral services, while earning £3,000-£3,500 per annum plus some extra fees.
‘The friendly, welcoming, and engaging attitudes of other musicians, and of cathedral staff, makes the experience one that not only allows you to better your understanding of the music, but also to become a better performer and worker in a more general sense.’
Becky Fletcher, former Choral Scholar
Uniquely in Scotland, our choir sings regular weekday as well as Sunday services during term time. Choral Evensong is sung at 5.30pm Tuesdays-Fridays and 3.30pm on Sundays, with Choral Eucharist on Sunday mornings. The soprano line is sung by choristers who all attend St Mary’s Music School, Scotland’s only choir school. In 1978 St Mary’s was the first choir of its type to allow girls to sing alongside the boys and then, in 2006, to appoint a female alto.
The Choir is also well-known internationally for its recording projects. There have been outstanding reviews from the press, including three Gramophone Editor’s Choices, a Gramophone Recommended Recording, and ‘Outstanding’ accolades from International Record Review. In recording Tudor music (discs of music by John Taverner, John Sheppard, and William Mundy) the choir sang large-scale works from the sixteenth century often previously regarded as the preserve of professional adult ensembles, working alongside academics to devise exciting programmes of repertoire, some of which had not been heard since the time of composition. The choir’s latest recording is of music by Kenneth Leighton, a composer with links to Edinburgh and St Mary’s, gaining five stars from BBC Music Magazine. Music by contemporary composers is an important part of the choir’s repertoire and many leading composers have written pieces for the choir (e.g. James MacMillan, Arvo Pärt, Cecilia McDowall).
The choir regularly broadcasts on BBC Radio including a live broadcast of Choral Evensong during the Edinburgh Festival. Tours have included central Europe, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, America and Canada. Other recent projects have included recording sound for the film The Lost King.
Choral scholars sing with the choir for its full schedule of services, concerts etc. A competent level of singing and musicianship is expected from the outset, with some experience of singing Anglican choral music (or similar). It is recognized that choral scholarships are a learning process however, and through singing music most days during term time, confidence in sight-reading, ensemble and solo singing increases quickly. Choral scholars are expected to arrive at rehearsals having prepared the music, with rehearsals before Evensong taking place at 4.55pm during the week and at 9.45am and 2.45pm on Sundays. There are also two short weekday rehearsals after Evensong on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 7pm.
While being a choral scholar is a significant commitment, care is taken to see that the scholarship works alongside university degrees. Singing as a gap-year choral scholar is also an option. Choral scholars can be absent twice a term on weekdays for university work, at other times by arrangement with the Master of the Music in the event of, for example, lecture clashes, and book deputies from the dep list if they need to be away at other times, provided sufficient notice is given.
To apply for a choral scholarship please send a copy of your CV (detailing your singing experience in particular) and names and email addresses of two referees. If invited to audition you will be asked to sing a couple of prepared pieces of your choice and to do some sight-reading. All appointments are subject to a trial period and a basic disclosure.
To find out more, arrange a visit to St Mary’s or audition, please contact Duncan Ferguson, the Cathedral’s Master of the Music, firstname.lastname@example.org.