The Senior Organ Scholar is effectively the Director of Music at Jesus College, Oxford. As such he or she takes responsibility for organising and directing music for all Chapel services, doing so with the support of the Junior Organ Scholar, and under the supervision of the Chaplain.
The weekly round of services during term which require music is Sunday 5.45 pm Choral Evensong, and Thursday 6.15 pm Holy Communion with Hymn(s). Beyond these there are other occasional services during term - St David's Day (effectively the College Patronal Festival), and from time to time a memorial service. Outside term there are occasional Gaudies and Old Member services for which an Organ Scholar may be asked to provide music. Organ Scholars may also be asked to play for weddings in the College Chapel - for which they will receive an extra fee according to the RSCM guidelines.
The Organ Scholars choose the choral repertoire to be performed throughout the term in advance, in discussion with the Chaplain. The Chaplain also helps the Organ Scholars to grow and develop as Directors of Music, through learning about the relationship between liturgy and worship, and through developing their repertoire and knowledge of sacred music. Supervision takes place on a weekly basis over a cup of coffee (and occasionally biscuits!) As a former Oxbridge Choral Scholar herself, the Chaplain is passionate about supporting and resourcing the musical life of the College. The time the Organ Scholars spend with the Chaplain also enable them to keep a healthy balance between the demands of their degrees, their Organ Scholar duties, and all the other things they may be doing.
The Organ Scholars recruit and lead the thriving choir, which sings at Sunday Choral Evensongs, and one or two of the occasional services. The Organ Scholars are expected to develop their conducting skills with the offer of input from a teacher (at present Paul Spicer), paid for by the college. The choir comes together for two rehearsals a week - on Thursday late afternoon and before the Sunday service. Social occasions beyond their weekly choir tea - from Choir Curries to the annual black-tie dinner - mean that there is a great fellowship and shared enjoyment of choral music. The choir's broad repertoire is taken overseas on choir tours such as to Italy and Poland. While the college has no Choral Scholars, the choir retains a high standard, and thereby has a warm, inclusive character, which enables many singers to grow in their love of sacred choral music. The college also offers free singing lessons to all choir members, and regular choral masterclasses are arranged with leading church musicians such as Kerry Beaumont, Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral. Choir reunions and other events enable the performance of music such as Tallis' Spem in Alium. On occasion the Organ Scholars choose to work with a smaller group, the Jesus College Consort, selected from within the choir, to supplement the musical life of the college. Once a year, the choirs of Lincoln and Exeter join with Jesus to play their part in the Turl Street Arts Festival, which offers scope for larger-scale joint concerts such as Bach's St John Passion, alongside the Festival Evensong.
The Organ Scholars are also strongly encouraged to take time in preparation for services and rehearsals, both together and individually. The Organ Scholars are expected to continue to work on their organ skills by regular practice and lessons for which the College covers the cost. At present both Organ Scholars are taught by Steven Grahl. The organ itself is an historically informed instrument, built in the nineteenth century English style by the leading UK organ builder William Drake in 1993. A refined instrument with sensitive action and musical voicing, it is still relatively new and consequently in excellent condition. It is a superb organ for practice and to enhance technique, as well as sparkling in performance both on a secular level and in the worship offered in the Chapel. For a full organ specification see The Organ. There is also a grand piano, and a harpsichord by Gobel (1975) available for use in the Chapel. A music practice room with grand and upright pianos may be booked during music hours.
Finally, it is hoped that the Organ Scholars will be able to pass their expertise on from one generation to another, so that Senior inspires and guides Junior, while the Junior supports and learns from the Senior. Thus the Organ Scholars are encouraged to model good working relationships, between themselves and indeed with the wider College, a skill which will stand them in good stead beyond their University career. Organ Scholars are required to read for a Final Honour School of the University; at Jesus College this can be in Music, Engineering, History, Law, or Modern Languages.
It is expected that Organ Scholars will be in general sympathy with the aims and practices of Christian worship, though not necessarily members of the Church of England.
See also Organ Scholarships at Jesus College