Oxford: A Musical History


Oxford is world-renowned for its “dreaming spires”, its libraries, and for producing some of the best intellects in many fields. Hand in hand with that intellectual tradition goes a musical tradition that stretches back hundreds of years. This course explores Oxford’s musical history, both sacred and secular. We will discuss how Oxford educated its musicians and scholars, created forward-thinking concert halls, and promoted musical life from circa 1550 to the end of the 20th century.

While the majority of this course is focused on Oxford, we will begin with an overview of music in England from circa 1100 to 1560 as well as discuss the influence of the royal courts in London. After establishing this foundation, we will then undertake an historical and musical journey through Oxford, examining the importance and role of the colleges’ various chapels, taking a closer look at choristers’ musical lives, charting the development of the famous Holywell Music Room, as well as considering some of the famous composers that have visited and studied at Oxford.

Programme details

Courses starts: 22 Jan 2024

Week 1: Introduction, Course Overview, Music in England from c. 1100 to c. 1560

Week 2: London – The influence of the Royal Courts

Week 3: John Taverner

Week 4: John Sheppard

Week 5: Oxford University Music Degrees from 1499 to 1700

Week 6: Choral Foundations in Oxford

Week 7: 1733: Handel’s Visit to Oxford

Week 8: The Holywell Music Room

Week 9: 1791: Haydn in Oxford

Week 10: Composers and Compositions of Oxford; Review

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Elizabeth Hepach

ELIZABETH HEPACH is a lecturer of music theory and musicology topics who has gained international teaching experience, both in the US, Germany, and England. Her dissertation focussed on the Mörike Lieder of Hugo Wolf and she enjoys teaching music to all ages, from young children to adults.       

Course aims

This course will provide you with an overview of the influence Oxford had within England’s musical history. 

Course objectives: 

  • To understand how Oxford played an important role as a musical centre in England’s music history.
  • To explore how various composers, compositions, music venues, and ideas that helped to shape Oxford’s musical history.
  • To have a better understanding of the various musical institutions that are in Oxford.

Teaching methods

This course will consist of lectures and class discussions. This class can be viewed as an introduction to the musical history of Oxford with lively discussions welcome from participants. There will be relevant images and resources shown, musical examples played, and where possible, a look through musical scores. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  1. discuss how Oxford functioned (and continues to function) as a musical centre within England;
  2. identify and understand the importance of concert halls within Oxford and London;
  3. place important composers within their own cultural and social history. 

Assessment methods

You will have two options for assessment in this course. 

Option 1: PORTFOLIO – Here, you will present 3 short essays (each a maximum of 500 words) throughout the term. Each essay will answer a question presented from that week’s teachings. 

Option 2: FINAL ESSAY – This option allows you to draw upon the entire course to answer a single question within your essay (approx. 1,500 words). You will be given a selection of questions, from which you can choose one to write about. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

No prior musical knowledge is required for this course and each session is taught at an introductory level. As with most music courses, some background knowledge of reading music is beneficial, but not required.

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)