Oxford University Composing for Choirs Summer School 2017

Course summary

Oxford University Composing for Choirs Summer School 2017


Offered in tandem with the Choral Singing course (www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/choral-singing-summer-school), this course in choral composition allows composers to study through participation in (or observation of) the choral singing seminars together with group and individual tuition on their own compositional work. Participants will study and live in Oxford’s former Anglican monastery, now a Hall of the University of Oxford and will follow part of the timetable of the Choral Singing course but will be given separate study and practical assignments. In addition, teaching time in the late afternoon will be dedicated to the small group of composers.

Programme details

Practical seminar rehearsals are held for those on the Choral Singing and on the Composing for Choirs courses each weekday morning from 10.15am to 12 noon and each weekday afternoon from 2pm to 3.30pm. The morning and afternoon sessions follow a set theme (see below). These themes will provide a springboard for the course students’ compositional work. Between 4.30pm to 5.30pm the composition tutors will present seminars or tutorials which will be open only to those on the choral composition course. There is an additional evening choral session from 8.30 - 9.30pm on a variety of themes which composers may also attend. There is an introductory session on the first Sunday evening and a concluding performance event on the Saturday. Students depart after breakfast on the final Sunday. It is expected that composers will attend most of the seminars for singers, although there will be occasions when a compositional assignment in preparation for the daily composition session takes precedence.

The following session themes apply to all, singers and composers:


Plainchant and medieval music


Music of the Sixteenth century


Sessions with Dr Stephen Darlington


Music of the Seventeenth to Nineteenth centuries


Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries


On successful completion of the Summer School, all participants will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

Please note that this course does not offer any form of official credit to participants.


Programme Fee: Tuition, Full Board, Ensuite Accommodation: £1500.00
Programme Fee: Tuition, Full Board, No Accommodation: £1200.00
Programme Fee: Tuition, Full Board, Standard Accommodation: £1400.00


Mr Jonathan Darnborough


Jonathan Darnborough is Director of Studies in Music and Departmental Lecturer in Music at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.  He is a composer and pianist and has worked in continuing education throughout his career.

Jonathan studied piano and composition at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and the Royal Northern College of Music.  He was a prizewinner in the 1992 Franco-Italian Music Competition in Paris and has performed in the USA, France, Holland, Italy and Indonesia.  The Boston Globe has described him as having “a compositional voice that was unmistakably his own”.  He is currently working on an opera based on Euripides’s Hecuba and writing an online course on musical analysis for Oxford.

He is the author of an online course, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Dr James Whitbourn


Dr James Whitbourn is a Research Fellow of St Stephen’s House, Oxford and a member of the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford.  As composer, conductor and producer, he has three GRAMMY® nominations amongst many international awards. A graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, his career in music began in the BBC, for whom he has worked as composer, conductor, producer and presenter.  His largest composition is the concert-length choral work Annelies, which sets words from The Diary of Anne Frank. Other notable works include Luminosity, Son of God Mass for saxophone, choir and organ and The Seven Heavens for choir and orchestra - a portrayal of the life of C. S. Lewis in the imagery of the medieval planets. His choral works have been presented on acclaimed recordings, including five complete discs of his choral music, and are regularly performed throughout the world.

Course aims

The course, through practical seminars with singers and through individual and group tuition for composition students, aims to deepen understanding of the skills, techniques and philosophies of setting text for a chorus of singers.

Assessment methods

There are no formal assessments for this course.


Click 'apply' above to download an application form.

Prospective students must supply:

  • A completed application form.
  • Personal statement of all musical experience including, but not limited to, composition.
  • Two samples of your existing compositional work.

Please note that samples may be emailed seperately to ipmusic@conted.ox.ac.uk.