Members of the Merton College Girls' Choir in 2018 - Photo: © KT Bruce

Merton College Girl Choristers

In 2016 Merton College became the first College in Oxford University to admit girls into its Choral Foundation. The twenty-four girl choristers attend many different schools across Oxford and beyond, and rehearse at Merton on a Monday and Wednesday during school terms. Receiving specialist musical training from the College’s professional musicians, they sing Choral Evensong each Wednesday during University term, often with six professional adult singers who sing the lower parts. In addition, the choir undertakes a number of concerts and other activities each year, including performing in the Passiontide at Merton festival.

Girls are welcomed into the choir as probationers during Year 4, and sing as Choristers up to the end of Year 11. By negotiation, they can continue in the choir whilst in the sixth form. They receive tuition in Music Theory, and have singing lessons with Carys Lane.

The benefits of working alongside Merton College Choir (30 undergraduate and graduate students at the University) has led to the choristers participating in a number of high profile events including concert performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Instruments of Time & Truth, and Elgar’s The Apostles with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The choristers have performed in The Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and Durham Cathedral, and have taken part in the world première of new pieces by Neil Cox and Gabriel Jackson, including the first performance of Jackson’s Stabat Mater with The Marian Consort.

The College’s Director of Music, Benjamin Nicholas, is happy to hear prospective girl choristers at any time. To make an appointment please contact Sarah Cotterill, Chapel Administrator, on 01865 616724.

Girl Choristers' news

In July, the choristers will make their debut recording. The 24 girls will join Merton College Choir to record a new piece by Nico Muhly, commissioned for the College’s choirs by the Reed Foundation. The CD will be released in June 2020, and will feature music by contemporary American composers.

Between Tuesday 27 and Thursday 29 August, the girls will be in residence, singing Evensong, at Chichester Cathedral.

On Saturday 19 October, the Girls' Choir will sing at a joint service with Winchester Cathedral Choir.

Benjamin Nicholas conducting the Merton College Girls' Choir in Durham Cathedral

At the end of August 2018, the Girl Choristers enjoyed a four-day trip to the North East. The choristers sang Evensong in Durham Cathedral, and gave concerts at the churches of Holy Trinity, Embleton and St Mary the Virgin, Ponteland. Both Embleton and Ponteland are College ‘Livings’ and this year we celebrate the 750th anniversary of the link between Ponteland and Merton. The concert programmes included music by Byrd, Handel, Copland, Hurford, Lindley, Archer, and ending with John Scott’s arrangement of How can I keep from singing?


What are the benefits to being a chorister?

  • Singing music by great composers in one of Oxford’s most famous buildings;
  • taking part in services and concerts in Oxford and further afield;
  • receiving lessons from an experienced singing teacher;
  • making friends and getting to know new people with similar interests; and
  • occasional opportunities to sing with the undergraduate College Choir.

This is an entirely free opportunity: robes, singing lessons and refreshments are all provided.

What is the time commitment?

  • Monday: 4:00pm-4:30pm optional Theory Class; 4:45pm-6:00pm Rehearsal (refreshments available from 4:30pm)
  • Wednesday: 4:45pm-5:55pm Rehearsal; 6:15pm-6:50pm Evensong

These are the core duties during school term. The choir will have occasional extra commitments during the Christmas and Easter holidays, for which advance notice will always be given.

Do I have to be religious?

There is no requirement to have experience of Anglican worship or traditions but families need to be comfortable with the Chapel’s Christian ethos and that the choir will lead both the said and sung parts of the service.


For further information, please contact Sarah Cotterill, Chapel Administrator, on 01865 616724.