Join the Oxford Bach Choir!

New Members

We are now recruiting new members to sing with the Oxford Bach Choir in our 125th year. The Oxford Bach Choir is a large mixed voice choir with a great choral tradition.  If you are thinking of singing with a choir in Oxford, we promise a wonderfully rewarding experience.  We are a friendly and committed group of up to 150 singers, who rehearse, mainly, during Oxford university terms, under the direction of Benjamin Nicholas, Director of Music at Merton College.

As a member of the Oxford Bach Choir, you would perform in one of the most respected amateur choirs in the country.  You would meet like-minded people who share an interest in music and experience the thrill of performing with international, professional orchestras and soloists.  Our concerts, including our popular annual carol concert, usually take place in Oxford’s famous Sheldonian Theatre, and in other venues around Oxford.

Performances

Our recent performances have included Elgar, Dream of Gerontius, Parry, Songs of Farewell, and Handel, Athalia (composed to be performed in the Sheldonian Theatre). Concerts for our 125th anniversary season include Bach, Christmas Oratorio, Rossini, Stabat Mater, Britten, Spring Symphony, works by Vaughan Williams and Elgar, and a new commission for the choir by Russian-British composer and pianist, Alissa Firsova.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals of the Oxford Bach Choir take place on Monday evenings in central Oxford at the Wesley Memorial Chapel in New Inn Hall Street, with additional rehearsals before concerts and one Saturday each term.  During Covid-19 restrictions, the choir, like many others, has shown our resilience by rehearsing online.

Auditions

Admission to join the choir is through a personal audition with Benjamin Nicholas.  The audition is informal, with the sole aim of recruiting accomplished singers, and those with potential, to join existing choir members. Your audition would last 10 minutes and consist of singing a short, prepared piece of your choice, scales or arpeggios, and sight-reading from a vocal score (further details in FAQ).

Get in touch!

If you are interested in joining the Oxford Bach Choir, we would love to hear from you.

Please email Pia at membership@oxfordbachchoir.org with your name, a contact number and the voice part you have sung before (soprano 1/2, alto 1/2, tenor 1/2, bass 1/2) and we will get in touch with you.

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Questions & Answers (the FAQs)

Who sings in the OBC?

We are a choir of around 150 people from all walks of life, many from Oxfordshire but some travelling from further afield.  Undergraduates and graduates, people from business, the public sector, professionals, visiting academics, young and old, make up the choir.

When do we rehearse?

Rehearsals generally take place over nine weeks of the university term. These are held once a week on a Monday evening from 7.30 to 9.30pm. There is an additional mid-term rehearsal held on a Saturday morning, and one on the Thursday or Friday prior to the concert.

Where do we rehearse?

Principally, in the Wesley Memorial Church, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, OX1 2DH.

What is the commitment?

There are three main performances a year in December, March and June. In general, the expectation is that members will commit to all three concerts. There is also a family Carol Concert at Christmas, a lively, participatory event in which we hope most members will be able to sing.

Rehearsal attendance is important to maintain the high standard required to sing with professional soloists and orchestras.

Where are the concerts held?

Our main venue is the Sheldonian Theatre www.sheldonian.ox.ac.uk in central Oxford, but we also hold concerts in St John the Evangelist Church, Iffley www.sje-oxford.org,  and Oxford Town Hall www.oxfordtownhall.co.uk. In recent years we have also sung in London’s Royal Festival Hall and in Gloucester Cathedral.

Are there any vacancies?

There are currently vacancies in all voice parts.

How do I join?

Membership is by audition. If you would like to apply, please email your details (‘Get in Touch’ section, above) to Pia, Membership Secretary, membership@oxfordbachchoir.org, and we will get in touch with you.

What happens at the audition?

 Auditions are taken by Benjamin Nicholas, the Choir’s Music Director and are very informal. They last no more than ten minutes and consist of singing a short, prepared piece of your own choice, some scales or arpeggios, and some basic sight-reading from a vocal score. If you are unsure what to sing, bring something you know and are comfortable singing, e.g., an extract from a choral work (Fauré Requiem is a popular choice), a short aria, song, or a hymn.

When are auditions held?

Auditions are held on a rolling basis at a time convenient to the person applying. They are generally held on a Monday before a rehearsal or sometimes on a Friday or Saturday.

How good do I need to be?

We are not just looking for polished singers, but also for those who show potential to develop their abilities in the choir. You do need to be able to read music.

Can I try out to see if this is for me?

Yes, please do! You are welcome to come along to any of our rehearsals except for those closest to the concert. Contact Pia, membership@oxfordbachchoir.org, to arrange this.

We also have at least one open rehearsal a term for which you can just turn up, but please contact Pia in advance if possible, so we can be sure to have enough scores and space for you. Check our website for details of the next one.

What are the membership fees?

The fees for the 2021-22 season are currently under review and will be published in later in July. Membership for full-time students is currently free.

What about the social side of the choir?

Choirs are a great way to meet like-minded people and each rehearsal is followed by an informal get together in a nearby pub. We have social events through the year, and we also participate in Oxford University’s open weekend for alumni.

Can I help?

Most definitely. In any way, however small. If you have any skills that might be useful, please speak to one of the Trustees when you join.

 What about the impact of Covid-19?

All choirs have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions and we all hope for a return to more normal conditions this autumn.  However, the choir has adapted to Government restrictions, holding Zoom rehearsals, and, when possible, socially distanced, in-person rehearsals in a fully risk-assessed, Covid-secure environment. In late September we will stream online, a performance of French music, rehearsed primarily on Zoom!

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 Questions & Answers for Students

How many student members are there?

We are very keen to audition students and usually have between 10 and 20 student members each year.

How much does it cost?

Membership is currently free for students.

What about vocal scores?

The choir librarian organises the purchase and hire of scores. There is no hire charge for students.

Can I come and try a rehearsal?

Yes! You will be welcome to try out any of our rehearsals in the earlier part of each term, or to come along to one of the open rehearsals at the beginning of term. Contact Pia, the membership secretary (membership@oxfordbachchoir.org) in advance, so that she can arrange music and space for you.

Is the performance in term time?

Rehearsals and concerts are held within the university term, except for the Carol concert, which takes place closer to Christmas.

How easy is it to get to the rehearsal and concert venues?

All our venues are in central Oxford, with the exception of St John the Evangelist Church, which is a part way along the Iffley Road.

Can I miss any rehearsals?

Yes, but all choir members are expected to attend most rehearsals, so that we can maintain a high standard for public performance.

How good do I have to be to audition?

Both polished singers and beginners showing potential, are very welcome at audition. You do need to be able to read music. Auditions are very informal and friendly, designed to allow you to show your potential. Many people worry about the sight-reading, but this is quite standard, and you will get help from the piano, and not be left to flounder.

Are there any social activities?

Choir members tend to gather at a pub after rehearsals on Mondays. There is usually also a post-concert party.

Our student reps

We have great student reps, Marin and Emily, who can answer your questions as well as facilitate social activities.

More information…

For more information about joining Oxford Bach Choir please contact Pia, our Membership Secretary at membership@oxfordbachchoir.org