The aim of the course is to train musicians in the art of choral conducting; to instruct them in diverse aspects of the history and practice of choral music; to provide the technical skills required to work with historic repertoires and, for organists, to develop organ playing skills as both soloist and accompanist; to facilitate research into and performance of new or little-known choral repertoire; and to give students the experience of observing and working with the collegiate Chapel choirs.
Structure of the Course
The course consists of six elements:
1. Choral Conducting: Weekly instruction, leading to a practical examination;
2. Seminar course: Weekly seminars, resulting in two coursework essays;
3. Choral Project: Candidates develop, rehearse and direct a recital programme which draws on their own scholarly research into repertoire, performance practice or pedagogical techniques.
4. Optional Elements: Students select either:
a) an extended essay, on a topic relating to their choral project; or
b) editing project, related to their choral project; or
c) organ or continuo performance
5. College Placements and Observations
6. Aural Classes
Detailed Content of the Six Elements
Choral Conducting: This part of the course consists of regular classes on conducting technique and, in addition, occasional seminars on vocal issues (such as rehearsal techniques, working with boys’ voices, and vocal health) and issues of repertoire (such as interpreting early choral repertoire and preparing modern choral scores). A weekly rehearsal choir provides extra opportunity for conducting experience and a resource for masterclasses. At the end of the course candidates will be required to rehearse and conduct a choir for approximately thirty minutes, using set works announced at the start of the course.
Seminar course: These seminars will cover a wide range of subjects, grouped under two main headings, ‘Theological and Liturgical Contexts’ and ‘The English Choral Tradition: Cultural and Historical Contexts’. Candidates will submit one essay (3500 words) at the start of Lent term; and a further essay (3500 words) at the start of Easter term.
Choral project: Candidates will prepare a choral programme of no longer than 25 minutes. Projects should seek to be innovative in their choice of repertoire, and would usually involve research into neglected repertoire and/or the creation of fresh editions. Projects may also engage with performance practice research, or (if a children’s choir is involved) engage with issues of pedagogical training.
Options: Candidates are required to select one of the following three options:
Extended essay of not more than 7000 words, on a topic related to Option (iii): Choral Project.
Editing or Source Studies project, presenting fresh editions and/or source discussion of the repertoire presented in Option (iii): Choral Project.
Organ or Continuo recital.
College observations and placements
Candidates will be encouraged to participate fully in college choirs, arrangements for which will be facilitated by the Course Director in conjunction with the Directors of Music at the College involved. Placements will be made on the understanding that the candidates will on occasion have opportunities to direct the choirs in which they are involved. Opportunities are also offered to observe College choirs in rehearsal and performance.
Delivered in association with the 1a Undergraduate course.
The Faculty will cover instrument tuition fees up to a cost of £40 per hour for four one-hour lessons for students opting to take the organ recital or continuo options. However, depending on your choice of organ teacher and the number of lessons needed, extra costs may be incurred. This can sometimes be subsidised from College bursaries but will otherwise have to be covered from private funds.
Similarly, MMus students choosing to take up the opportunities offered in Cambridge for extra training in keyboard or instrumental skills may be able to subsidise costs from College bursaries, but will otherwise have to find funds from private resources.
Duration of the Course
The course will last ten months, from 1 October to 31 July, and it is expected that students will be resident in Cambridge throughout University terms.
Enquiries and Applications
We realise that for many potential applicants, funding is a major issue. See Funding Graduate Study for information on costs and funding options, with links to the University’s graduate funding pages.
Applications must be made online; details of How to Apply are available here. Applicants for the MMus are required asked also to supply a video recording of their conducting. The video should be approximately 10-15 minutes in length, and should be focussed primarily on you as director of a choral ensemble (rather than on the ensemble itself). It should include footage of you rehearsing the ensemble as well as some longer sections of 'performance' - though these need not be in front of a live audience.
Please note that video recordings cannot be uploaded through the University’s online application system but should be submitted direct to the Faculty through Dropbox by sharing electronic files with firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you live in the UK, you will probably be invited to an interview; if you live elsewhere we can usually conduct the interview using SKYPE or by phone if necessary.
Further details of graduate life at Cambridge may be found on the University’s Student Registry website.