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“ To my mind, music is an important part of education, where a boy has a turn for it. It is a great resource when they are thrown on the world...It is often a great point for a boy to escape from himself; and music enables him. ”
John Henry Cardinal Newman

Music is an integral part of life at The Oratory School. It is offered in the school curriculum to all boys in forms 1, 2 and 3, and thereafter as an option at GSCE, AS and A2 levels. Results are good, with a predominance of A grades at all levels.

Several boys go on to read Music at universities and conservatoires, including some in recent years who have gained choral and organ scholarships at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities, and others who are studying at the Royal College of Music and the Birmingham Conservatoire. Approximately 45% of boys take the opportunity to have individual singing and instrumental tuition, and a range of scholarships and exhibitions is available to recognise, celebrate and nurture musical talent.

You can read more about the music activities outside the classroom on our Oratory Life Music page.

Groups and Ensembles

Musical activities include the Schola Cantorum (chapel choir), orchestra, chamber orchestra, jazz band, big band, many specialist vocal and instrumental ensembles, and the boys’ own rock groups.

The Schola Cantorum sings weekly Vespers and Benediction, Mass on Holy Days and some Sundays during the year, and one or two annual concerts. Recent major works performed include Mozart: Requiem, Bernstein: Chichester Psalms and Janacek: Octenas. A smaller group of Cantors leads the singing at the other Sunday Masses. There is frequent collaboration with the Choristers of the Oratory Preparatory School.

The instrumental groups typically give two major performances each year. Groups are specially formed to perform musicals and operetta. Performances have included: The Pirates of Penzance, Trial by Jury, Joseph, A Midsummer Night’s Rock Musical, Oliver, Animal Farm, Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island.


The principal outlet for musical activity is through the Music Society, whose performances are open to all pupils, their families and friends. Opportunities are available for pupils to perform both as soloists and in groups. The year’s programme includes ‘themed’ recitals (brass, piano, singing, scholars’, and so on); and larger-scale choral and orchestral concerts. There are four annual competitions (instrumental, piano, singing and inter-house) adjudicated by professional musicians. There is a series of recitals which provide a platform for boys to perform in an informal setting. The boys give a number of extra-mural performances each year, often to benefit local charities, and foreign tours are part of the regular programme. Trips to hear professional musicians in Oxford, London and elsewhere take place at least once a term: concerts, operas and West End musicals are all part of the regular diet of professional music-making to which the boys are introduced. Visits by professional musicians to give master-classes and performances in the School are also arranged from time to time. The annual Music Society Dinner, to which all senior musicians are invited, provides a convivial finalé to the year’s activities.


The recently refurbished Music Department houses two teaching classrooms with audio and video equipment, a suit of practice rooms, a well-stocked library of books, scores and CDs, instrument storage, several networked computers and offices. Concerts and recitals are held in the Chapel and Black Room, both of which contain a high-quality grand piano. The Chapel houses a two–manual pipe organ with mechanical action, and boys are encouraged to learn the organ. A range of orchestral and other instruments is also available.

Music Technology

The Music Technology Suite and live room, also used as a rehearsal room, are located adjacent to the Music Department. The studio is equipped with two digital 8-track recorders, a networked PC with a range of sequencing and notation software, microphones, processors, effects units and mastering units, and is available for use by all boys who study GCSE, AS and A2 Music. The department also has a suite of electronic keyboards.

S P S Burrows  BA(Hons)

Director of Music