Music is integral to the life of our school, giving pupils skills and experiences that last them for the rest of their lives. Our aim is to enable every pupil to experience the best and widest range of music-making, whether as a performer or listener. We approach this by sharing a love of music across the school, and by inspiring pupils to achieve - for themselves - the highest possible standards. Distinguished musicians who have worked at the school include Thomas Weelkes, Jeremiah Clarke, SS Wesley, Sir George Dyson and many others.
Beyond music as a curriculum subject, we encourage extra-curricular participation for every pupil who is interested and able. Two thirds of the pupils learn an instrument, while many learn two or three. From the Glee Club to the Quiristers, and with a lively calendar of concerts and performances, we cater for the widest possible range of tastes, expectations and experience. The diverse range of places where the boys can make music, practise, listen to and compose it, makes Winchester very special indeed.
“I’ve found that music at Winchester doesn’t dominate your life, but it can take as much time as you want - there’s so much to do.”
Concerts take place regularly. All pupils are given the opportunity to perform, whether as part of one of the elite ensembles or in an informal concert, House choir or Glee Club. The school is also active in commissioning and performing new music for our choirs and instrumental ensembles.
Operas and musicals, often involving large casts and professional soloists, are staged in New Hall, the Queen Elizabeth II Theatre or the Theatre Royal in Winchester. Some of our musical theatre is produced and directed with great success entirely by the pupils. Through our Community Outreach programmes, pupils work with the Blue Apple Theatre Company and entertain various residential homes with songs and sketches.
Our Music School offers excellent facilities for making music, with a large rehearsal and concert hall. The standards of equipment and performance spaces, plus the overriding ethos, are such that pupils who have never sung or played an instrument are inspired to give it a try.
We have fifty teaching and practice rooms, as well as a fully-equipped music technology classroom, recording studio, editing suite, percussion studio and rock room. New Hall, which was extensively refurbished in 2014, provides an outstanding performance space, with seating for 400, excellent backstage facilities and first-rate acoustics. Alternatively, the College Chapel provides an inspirational venue for choral and instrumental music.
“You can walk into a hall with, say, 40 other people and rehearse a whole concerto - it’s just unusual to be able to do that in a school.”
The Music department consists of six full-time staff and over fifty specialist peripatetic tutors who teach over seven hundred individual instrumental lessons each week. Pupils can specialise in all orchestral instruments and many others, including piano, organ, voice, harp, recorder, guitar (bass, electric, acoustic and classical), and bagpipes.
“The music teachers are really special because, although you only meet once or twice a week, in those forty minutes you create a really good relationship. Because they are all practical musicians as well, that’s a great advantage.”
Music as an academic subject is an option for all pupils in their first year. Talented musicians elect to take the GCSE and A Level courses, many with the aim of reading Music at Oxbridge.
“Before coming here, learning an instrument was a chore. My parents had to make me practise every day and I really didn’t enjoy it. But then when I came here, the teachers have been really enthusiastic and basically taught me to enjoy music. It’s quite magical really.”
We offer Music Scholarships and Exhibitions to pupils who show promise and are keen to contribute to the musical life of the school. Currently, over sixty Music Scholars and Music Exhibitioners attend the school. Ex-cathedral and collegiate choristers are particularly welcome, and parents are encouraged to contact the Master of Music in advance of application.
We have a choral tradition that was started 600 years ago; we are the only school to maintain this in its original form.
The Chapel Choir is the school’s most prestigious musical ensemble, performing in the chapel throughout the year. The Glee Club (the school’s Choral Society) is made up of around 100 pupils, parents and staff. It gives two concerts annually, with repertoire including Mozart's Requiem and Haydn's Creation. Four other choirs and vocal groups give all pupils the opportunity to sing an eclectic mix of both sacred and secular music.
Some pupils start their musical journey at Winchester with the Quiristers; and are an integral part of Chapel Choir.
A large number of pupils at Winchester play orchestral instruments, and there are plenty of opportunities to perform in ensembles. Pupils meet informally to play together in varying compositional groups and styles, from string quartets to bagpipes.
Ensembles available to pupils include Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Wind Orchestra, Academy Strings, Jazz Orchestra, Junior and Senior Rock Bands, and the Baroque Players, as well as various smaller chamber music ensembles to include as many ages and abilities as possible.
The Symphony Orchestra performs major works including symphonies and concertos by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, with our pupils as soloists.
“It helped me in the first year, because playing in this quartet meant I could instantly bond with other people.”
Pupils can participate in workshops and concerts given each year by visiting artists. Recent visitors have included Mitsuko Uchida, the Škampa Quartet, the Doric Quartet, James Gilchrist, Ashley Riches, Adrian Brendel, Fretwork, Stile Antico and The King's Singers. Masterclasses have been given by Charles Owen, Angela Hewitt, Felix Andrievsky and Colin Lawson.
Many of the school's concerts are open to members of the public, some of them free of charge.
“I have been encouraged to perform my own works, and also write stuff for professional musicians. It’s a hands-on department”
25th May 2021
Last weekend sixth form pupils led a 24 hour music festival, involving performers of all ages and raising over £5000 for charity. They entertained a small live audience as well as parents and friends, via a livestream of the entire event.
16th October 2020
'A Winter's Night' is a wonderful collection of Christmas classics and choral music from Winchester's Chapel Choir. Released on Signum records on 16 October 2020.
31st May 2020
Quiristers have been singing at Winchester College since 1394. The current situation could not be allowed to disrupt that tradition. Therefore online rehearsals and recording individual voices remotely have become the new ways of keeping the sound of Chapel Choir with us.
27th March 2020
Whilst we are unable to gather for our Passiontide Service, it is still possible to share the music we would have enjoyed, and find a moment of peace.
17th January 2020
This January Chapel Choir recorded a new album at Merton College Chapel, Oxford. 'A Winter's Night' will be available to purchase later in the year.
12th December 2019
The Mince Pie Concerts are one of the highlights of the advent calendar at school. Sixth form pupil, and appreciative audience member, Carson reviews this year's offering.