Music


Music

Music is the beating heart of this remarkable school. Christ’s Hospital is perhaps the only school in the world where every student hears live music played or sung by their peers on six days a week.

We are very proud of our musical tradition, and are constantly looking to create new, inspiring learning opportunities for our students.

Students of every age, ability and experience are encouraged to begin or continue their musical studies at Christ’s Hospital, and over 600 lessons are taught each week by our superb staff.

The school subsidises instrumental lessons and can provide instruments and sheet music free of charge. We believe so strongly in the educational and social benefits of music that we do all we can to enable any student who wishes to do so to become involved, irrespective of previous experience or means.

Singing

This is a singing school. Congregational singing in Chapel is strong, and every member of the school takes part in the annual House Singing Competition. There are also many opportunities for specialised group singing.

The Chapel Choir, made up of over a tenth of the school, is the most high-profile vocal ensemble, singing at the weekly Sunday Chapel service.

The most senior and experienced singers are invited to audition for the Schola Cantorum, a chamber choir of around 25 students. We have a fantastic Gospel Choir, led by students, who perform regularly in Chapel and at various school events, such as the annual Jazz Night.

There are many other choirs, auditioned and open, for various year groups, including small ad hoc consorts for the weekly services of Compline and Evensong.

For those who wish to have singing lessons, we have five singing teachers, three classical specialists, a jazz and pop specialist, and one with expertise in both.

We are always proud when students continue to sing at university and college. In recent years, students have won choral scholarships at Oxford, Cambridge, London, and elsewhere.

Orchestral & Chamber Music

The most advanced musicians in the school are selected for the Symphony Orchestra, which gives two major performances in the year.

Every Lent Term, we welcome players from our Professional Orchestra-in-Partnership, the world-renowned English Chamber Orchestra (ECO). These experienced and inspiring musicians give one-to-one lessons and lead workshop sessions in preparation for the Angus Ross Gala Concert at the end of term. This concert includes concertos played by Grecians and a major choral work. In the concert, our students have the benefit of playing side-by-side with our ECO guests, giving them a taste of life as a pro musician.

We also run a Chamber Orchestra (strings) and an Intermediate Orchestra for Second Form, Third Form, and LE students (Years 7-9).

Smaller string, wind and brass groups run throughout the year. We feel working in chamber music groups is an incredibly important part of every instrumentalist’s training, and often these groups are student-led. There is an annual concert dedicated to chamber music.

Concert Band & Big Band

The Concert Band offers opportunities for our students to gain wider experience of ensemble playing in many different genres, as it features woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboards and, during our must adventurous undertakings, string instruments. Performances take place throughout the year, most notably a dedicated concert featuring the Concert Band and junior bands every February.

The CH Big Band performs an eclectic mix of music from the from 1930s to the present day. This includes compositions and repertoire from Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman as well as more modern charts from The National Youth Jazz Orchestra and pop music primarily for our vocalists.

Organs & Organists

We have an enthusiastic and relatively large cohort of student organists. Lessons are offered free of charge to interested students; a minimum of Grade 5 piano is expected. Students are prepared for ABRSM exams and university scholarships, and have many opportunities to practise, play in concerts, or participate in the round of weekly Chapel services. Several students have attended Oundle for Organists courses in recent years.

We are lucky to have five pipe organs on site, ranging from a single-manual instrument (Flight & Robson, 1826) to the mighty 5-manual (Rushworth & Dreaper, 1931, with a major rebuild by Manders in 2022-3) in Chapel, complete with the famous West End tubas. Lessons mostly take place upon one of our fine mechanical action instruments: a ‘Father’ Willis of 1878 in the Dining Hall, and an organ built by Saxon Aldred in 1981 in the Dominions Library.

Music Tuition FAQ and T&C’s 2023-2024

Meet our students

Molly (LH-B / Gr-E, 2013-20) – French Horn, Voice, Piano

I was introduced to CH when I was 10 years old through an Old Blue family friend, who went on to kindly become my governor and benefactor. As a Music Scholar, I quickly became involved in all the major musical ensembles alongside my weekly lessons on the French Horn, Voice, and Piano.

Thanks to the expertise and encouragement of my teachers, I got a French Horn diploma in Deps (Year 12), and gained a place to attend the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department on Saturdays in my final two years. This was an amazing experience, and CH were very supportive.

As well as the instrumental music, I loved all the singing, be it belting out hymns with the whole school in Chapel, the weekly round of Chapel Choir duties, or singing a Bach Cantata with the Schola Cantorum. I was really pleased to get a choral scholarship and an offer to study Music at Oxford University, but decided the best way for me was the ‘joint course’ in Manchester, where I currently study Music at the University of Manchester and French Horn Performance at the RNCM, allowing me a broad range of options for postgraduate study and beyond. Throughout the university application process, the music staff at CH offered an unwavering stream of advice and support.

I have a lot to thank the Music Department at CH for; I would not be where I am without the inspiration it provided me and countless others. And although I loved pretty much every aspect of my seven years at the school, my happiest memory of all is of the first time I marched out with the Band, aged 11: the sun was beaming onto the Quad, I was attempting to march whilst playing a French Horn I could barely lift and, though I was a full-boarder, I was home.

Mutsuki (Col-B / Gr-W, 2019-21) – Violin, Piano

I joined Christ’s Hospital in Year 12 and spent two years there thanks to a scholarship from the Tazaki Foundation. Having grown up in Japan, coming to the UK was a huge change and challenge. It felt very overwhelming at first, but it didn’t take me long to settle in and realise how supportive CH was.

I can’t thank the Music Department enough. They were always there to help and provide me with exciting and challenging activities; I enjoyed leading orchestras, playing in ensembles, and learning from first-class teachers in masterclasses. Performing in concerts was always my favourite part. I was also involved in a variety of things outside of CH, including attending the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama on Saturdays, where I studied the violin. It was inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people who all love making music together. Another great opportunity I had was to play a violin concerto with the Horsham Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately, I couldn’t perform in the concert due to the pandemic, but this experience certainly gave me confidence as a soloist. In addition to these, the Music Department helped me with my academic studies as well. Without their support, I simply wouldn’t have been able to get through the daunting process of applying to both universities and conservatoires.

I’m currently studying music at Clare College, Cambridge, which is a perfect environment for me; I can immerse myself in music as an academic discipline, which I started to love through my Pre-U Music studies at CH, alongside various performance opportunities.

All the experiences I gained at CH were invaluable to my development not only as a musician but also as a person. If you’re considering applying to CH, I can assure you that you will never regret joining this wonderful community!

Adrian (Mid-A / Gr-W, 2016-21) – Flute, Piccolo, Voice

I was very privileged to join Christ’s Hospital on the LE (Year 9) in 2016. Having come from a school in urban East London, the green countryside was a particularly stark change!

I started flute lessons immediately and joined the Training Band and Chapel Choir. In GE (Year 11), I joined the Marching and Concert Band on flute and piccolo. For many years I loved singing with the pupil-led Gospel Choir, and, as a Grecian (Year 13), I was proud to become one of the leaders.

As part of CH’s celebrations for Black History Month 2021, I organised a Celebrating Black Excellence Concert. Historically, many black composers and performers have not had the recognition they deserve. This is of course changing, and I am pleased that CH was and still is a vehicle for that change.

I had so many memorable musical experiences at CH, but two that stand out are the evening Beating Retreat to celebrate the 150th year of the Marching Band in 2019, and playing Verdi’s Forza Del Destino in a Concert Band concert. I have taken these and so many more experiences with me and continue to have flute lessons alongside my studies in Law, French & Japanese at Cardiff University.

Max (La-B / Gr-E, 2014-21) – Clarinet, Piano, Jazz Piano

My family live in York, so quite a way from Sussex, but my mum is an Old Blue and my grandmother had been a matron there, so it the school already had a familiarity when I arrived as a Second Former (Year 7).

At CH, I was involved with (as my houseparent once put it) “every possible activity under the sun”. I made it my mission to do as much as I could, and to it to as high a standard as possible. I played in the Symphony Orchestra, Big Band, Marching Band, and I sang in Chapel Choir and Schola Cantorum – amongst other things!

A particularly important thing for me was playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra Academy Big Band every weekend, something that CH encouraged me to apply for and supported me throughout my time at school. I still hold the piano chair for the orchestra and plan to audition for the main NYJO band this coming September. I have learnt a huge amount playing with a professional orchestra like NYJO.

Whilst there were countless major concerts and performances that I took part in over my seven years (including 11 Big Band concerts and 7 Beating Retreats!), it’s the smaller, less grand moments that seem to have stuck with me most. I remember one Friday evening me and four other friends decided to meet up to sing some music by William Byrd together. We began in Music School but migrated to the gallery of the completely empty Chapel. One of the teachers had heard us singing from the Quad and popped in to see what was going on. One by one, various interested passers-by came into Chapel to hear us sing and, before we knew it, we had a mini audience – including the Head Teacher!

I am currently studying music at Manchester University and loving it. I am immersing myself in the music here (particularly the jazz scene), playing lots of gigs and joining as many groups as possible. CH not only gave me great teaching and performance opportunities, but it also instilled in me a work ethic to do as much as possible as well as possible.

Meet the teachers

James Bartlett MA (Cantab) – Director of Music

Mr Bartlett read music at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he held a choral scholarship and sang with Sidney Sussex College Choir and King’s College Choir. Originally from Pembrokeshire, he held a Junior Choral Scholarship at St Davids Cathedral alongside his time at Sir Thomas Picton School in Haverfordwest. Beyond Christ’s Hospital, Mr Bartlett maintains a busy portfolio of professional singing work, is a course director and safeguarding lead for the Rodolfus Choral Courses, and is a musical director for the National Youth Music Theatre. JRB@christs-hospital.org.uk

Ed Jones MA (Oxon) – Assistant Director of Music (Academic)

Mr Jones studied music at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a choral scholar. He has been at Christ’s Hospital since 2011 and, since 2013, has combined his role as Assistant Director of Music (Academic) with that of a Housemaster. Away from CH he maintains an active career as a professional singer. EBHJ@christs-hospital.org.uk

Verity Bramson MA, MA (Cantab) PGDip – Head of Singing

Miss Bramson read Music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she was a choral scholar, and graduated with Distinction in Postgraduate Vocal Studies from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance. She joined CH in September 2020, before which she enjoyed a busy freelance career as a soprano and singing teacher. Passionate about the ever-expanding field of voice science, alongside her role at CH she is currently completing an MA in Voice Pedagogy with the University of Wales and the Voice Study Centre.

Tim Carter BMus LRSM AMusTCL – Band Director & Head of Woodwind and Percussion

Mr Carter, joined Christ’s Hospital in September 2020 from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. The experience and skill that Mr Carter gained in his 29 years playing and directing in that world-renowned organisation affords him the exact blend of expertise to train, lead and inspire the young musicians at CH both on parade and on the concert platform.  TMC@christs-hospital.org.uk

Robert Thompson MM BMus – Assistant Director of Music (Performance) & Head of Keyboard

Mr Thompson studied at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2010 he completed his Masters with Peter Frankl at Yale University. Since then, he has gone on to perform in venues across the UK, Europe, and Asia, and frequently appears on BBC Radio 3. Passionate about teaching, he was Head of Piano at Bedford School for eight years and is now proud to lead the Keyboard Department at CH.RJT@christs-hospital.org.uk

Emily Marsden BMus MA – Head of Strings

Following 20 years of playing with chamber and symphony orchestras such as the RPO, the London Mozart Players, the BBC Concert Orchestra and a full-time post with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Mrs Marsden was delighted to take up the role of Head of Strings at Christ’s Hospital in 2017. She leads the String Department, oversees the various ensembles, and directs the Chamber Orchestra, and enjoys using her experience from the music profession to enthuse Christ’s Hospital pupils.EJM@christs-hospital.org.uk

Steve Titchener BA MMus – Head of Brass

Mr Titchener studied Jazz at Leeds College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and completed a Masters in Jazz Composition at Manhattan School of Music. While in New York, he led his own Big Band and was lucky enough to play with some of the best jazz musicians in the States. On this side of the Atlantic, he has played in many shows and with many bands, including The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, West Side Story in the West End, and for tours with Shirley Bassey.

Jonathan Lee MA (cantab.) – School Organist

Mr Lee joined CH as School Organist in January 2023. He trained as an organist at the Junior Academy, in Stellenbosch and then as organ scholar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Previous to CH he was school organist at Berkhamsted School and Organist of Berkhamsted Parish Church, where in 2016 he played for HM Queen Elizabeth II in a private concert. Work as an accompanist and continuo player has included work at Leipzig Gewandhaus, on radio and television broadcasts and with many choirs.  As well as an organist, Mr Lee is a busy classical record producer, and has made recordings of many groups and soloists for a variety of labels.

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