Music is the lifeblood of the College. It flows through College life so that all students encounter it whether through playing an instrument, singing at Mass, or attending concerts.
First and foremost, we seek to promote a lifelong love of music and to offer opportunities for all students to experience a broad range of music in meaningful and fulfilling ways through instrumental and vocal lessons, a plethora of choral and instrumental ensembles, and music production activities. Although classical plays a large part, every type of musical style is on offer. Our school pipe and drum band, the Ampleforth Highlanders, is the largest south of the Scottish border, swing and jazz thrive through Big Band, and a multitude of student-led pop and rock groups perform in our annual SHAC Rock festival. Please click on a tab below to learn more about our wider musical offering.
Ampleforth’s reputation for outstanding choral music is well known and continues to flourish. The Schola Cantorum was established in 1970 at the request of Basil Hume to help preserve the singing of music written for the Roman Catholic Church, along with the best examples from other traditions, in the context for which it was written: the celebration of Mass. This remains the at the very heart of the Schola’s mission. In addition, the choirs sing meditations at key moments in the Liturgical Year and are joined by professional soloists and orchestras for oratorios. There is an annual performances of Handel’s Messiah at Christmas and Fauré’s Requiem near the Feast of All Souls. Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passion, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Haydn’s Creation have all been performed in recent years.
The Choir tours regularly and has most recently returned from a tour to Rome where they sang in St Peter's amongst other places. They make regular visits to London for performances and sing in York Minister and Ripon Cathedral.
The College Chamber choir is a small group of the most able singers in the College. It performs sacred and secular repertoire throughout the year and occasionally sings Compline in the Abbey Church. Recent performances have included Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories, Britten’s Choral Dances form ‘Gloriana’ and Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art.
The Ampleforth and Ryedale Concert Choir is a community choir was founded nearly 20 years ago for staff, students and members of the local community. They rehearse in College once per week learning some of the great choral works for performance in the Abbey church and further afield. There is no audition or prior experience required to join this choir.
We have a broad and varied programme of instrumental music, of which the St Cecilia Concert in November, the Spring Concerto Concert in March, and the Exhibition Concert in May are the main showcases when the large ensembles perform. These include the Orchestra, Pro Musica string ensemble, Big Band, Brass Group, and Wind Ensemble. Classical certainly plays a large part but the Big Band focusses heavily on jazz and swing.
Pipes & Drum Band
We are proud to have a well-established and highly regarded Pipe Band: The Ampleforth Highlanders. It performs regularly at school events as well as touring in the UK and abroad and has had considerable success in national Piping and Drumming competitions. Pupils can join as complete beginners and take weekly individual instrumental lessons as well as rehearsing in the band.
Pop & Rock
We enjoy enabling students to take charge of their music making. Central to this is SHAC Rock, a contemporary pop and rock music festival every year where students form their own bands, rehearse their own music and lead in organising the whole event. It’s enormously popular and great fun.
Instrumental and Singing Lessons
We have some of the finest musicians in the country coming to Ampleforth to teach our students on a range of instruments. They bring a wealth of phenomenal skill and experience which they impart to our students. Please see their biographies in this section and details on how to sign-up for lessons.
Every student will perform in some way whilst they are at Ampleforth. Our Lunchtime recital series is hosted by Houses and gives an informal platform for all students to play as well as the whole house present a song. This culminates in a House Singing Competition every year.
We host evening recitals for our more advanced soloists allowing them to gain more confidence in public performance. Further to this, the Spring Concert features a concerto performances from senior musicians.
SHAC ROCK is a battle of the bands style event held annually and is entirely student led.
Edward Seymour, Director of Music
Edward began his musical career as a chorister at Blackburn Cathedral. He went on to study music at Durham University where he became Director of Music at the College of St Hild and St Bede. His main academic interests are in 20th Century English Song, early music, and experimental vocal music. Prior to joining Ampleforth, Edward was Director of Music at Ripon Grammar School. During this time the choral and instrumental provision has expanded significantly; choirs have won various awards, premiered commissions, recorded a CD and performed live on radio. Many of his students have gone on to study music at Russell Group universities and have received choral and instrumental scholarships at Oxbridge, Durham, Birmingham and London universities. Edward has maintained a busy career as a professional musician. For six years he was a Lay Clerk at Worcester Cathedral where he performed in the famous Three Choirs Festival. He has been in frequent demand as an oratorio soloist and recitalist throughout the country, has frequently performed on BBC radio and toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA. As a conductor Edward has worked with professional singers and orchestral players as well as amateur choral societies, school choirs and youth choirs.