Musical life in St Catherine’s is overseen by the Tutor in Music, Henfrey Fellow and Professor of Music Laura Tunbridge and the Director of Performance, Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey. The size of St Catherine’s and the fact that it does not have a chapel means that the kind of music-making that takes place in college is diverse; there is an active Music Society which organises recitals and other musical events reflecting student interests (from a cappella to chamber ensembles, Chinese music to jazz), and the JCR regularly hosts open mic nights. (There are plenty of opportunities for students to sing in chapel choirs and to pursue all manner of other musical activities elsewhere in Oxford.) St Catherine’s also hosts the Cameron Mackintosh Chair of Contemporary Theatre, holders of which have included lyricist Tim Rice, composer of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon Claude-Michel Schönberg, and opera director Deborah Warner. Thanks to this the College has exceptional links with contemporary theatre; many of our students take an active part in acting, writing, and directing in Oxford and beyond.
The College has its own Music House: a small purpose-built recital room with two grand pianos and a harpsichord, which doubles as a practice-room for College. All music students at St Catherine’s also have an electronic keyboard in their room, for use with headphones. St Catherine’s has one of the larger college libraries in the university, a convenient place to work as well as borrow books and scores, open until midnight on weekdays during term.
Lectures and seminars for the music degree take place in the Faculty on St Aldate’s, a lovely walk through Christ Church Meadows or a short cycle ride through town. College teaching is given by the music tutor and stipendiary lecturers. Some specialist subjects are taught by tutors at other colleges.
St Catherine’s offers a number of music-related scholarships, all of which are open to Catz students studying any subject:
The Leask Music Tuition Scholarship supports the musical development of Catz undergraduate and graduate students regardless of their course of study, musical genre, or instrumental or vocal interest (incl. acoustic and electronic musical practices). A single £500 scholarship (or two £250 scholarships—at the committee’s discretion) will be awarded each Michaelmas Term for the purpose of musical tuition to be used throughout the academic year.
The Leask Music Scholar Award recognises undergraduate outstanding musical performance achievement. The Leask Music Scholar is entitled to wear a Scholar’s gown and attend the Scholar’s dinner in Hilary Term. The Award lasts for the duration of their studies.
The Répétiteur Scholarship is designed for pianists interested in accompanying and conducting; the duties are split between assisting with practical music in the college and acting as répétiteur with the Oxford-based ‘New Chamber Opera’ company. Students who have held this scholarship have gone on to postgraduate study in performance and conducting at conservatoires and been appointed to positions in national opera companies.
The Freedman Violin Scholarship. Arnold Freedman, an alumnus of St Catherine’s, donated his very beautiful violin to be played by students. It is loaned to an undergraduate or postgraduate, from any subject, on the basis of an audition and interview with the Music Fellow, for an academic year. The Freedman Violin Scholarship is a wonderful opportunity for violinists to gain experience of playing a high-quality instrument. It is expected that the recipient of the scholarship would contribute to college musical life through performances.
The Henfrey Composition Prize is open to all Oxford University students and those who have graduated in the past two years. This prize supports the creation of new acoustic chamber music, which is performed and discussed by professionals in online and in-person workshops, culminating in a performance in St Catherine’s. The Prize has been adjudicated by composers Mark Simpson (2017), John Casken (2018), Emily Howard (2019), Judith Weir (2021), and Tonio Ko (2023). Ensembles have included Trio Atem, Boxwood and Brass, and members of Tangram. In 2023-24 composers will have the opportunity to write for tabla player Shahbaz Hussain and pianist Helen Anahita Wilson.