MEET THE CHOIR
Read below to find out about some of the members of the choir. At the bottom of this page, you can enjoy some quickfire questions with the choral scholars.
George Nicholls - Organ SCHOLAR
Being the Organ Scholar at Royal Holloway is an enormous privilege. Having the opportunity to be able to perform in one of the most beautiful college chapels with the expert guidance and direction of Rupert is not an opportunity that every undergraduate is afforded.
As organists, we have a very busy weekly schedule - 4 morning services, 2 evensongs, 1 lunchtime concert and other concerts outside of college. In preparing for this rigorous workload, you learn the art of efficient preparation. Things become much less intense as the first term progresses. You are also more able to deal with the intense concentration and flexibility needed in rehearsals and services. In order to prepare for all of this you are allowed around the clock access to the chapel organ and a choice of two practice instruments which is incredibly useful. Aside from the busy rigour of daily chapel life, there is a very vibrant social scene which I think is one of the most important things to get involved in.
I chose to apply to Royal Holloway not only to be an accompanist to an internationally renowned choir, but to be close to the energy of London. Working towards a career in the city, you are exposed to invaluable opportunities and people that really help to boost start life after uni.
My most memorable moment so far must have been our last concert at St Martin-in-the-Fields just before Covid-19 lockdown. The streets of London were silent and all you could hear in the church was the Northern line running underneath you as you were playing. It was a very special moment.
Maia jarvis - Soprano
The only choral experience I had before coming to university was singing in my school’s SSA Chamber Choir so joining the Choir of Royal Holloway was an eye-opening window into the world of choral music. When I first sang with the choir on Audition Day, it was so clear how passionate everyone was about music and after feeling that sense of camaraderie, I knew this was the choir I wanted to join. I think the main thing that makes this choir so unique is the wide range of music we sing. Whilst the English choral tradition is no doubt an important part of what we do, our weekly schedule consists of both concerts and services; thus, we’re always exploring a great breadth of repertoire, from close harmony arrangements of jazz standards to contemporary music that’s hot off the press.
Some of my favourite memories in the choir have to be our tours to France and Germany as well as performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the Barbican with the Britten Sinfonia. One of the most magical experiences was doing a Christmas concert to an audience of 1500 in St. Michael’s Church in Schwäbisch Hall. Being in the choir has also taught me a lot about time management, but I’ve found that having so much music-making in your week adds some variation to the regular rhythm of lectures and seminars. I also work as a librarian for the choir, which has been such a fantastic way to gain experience in administrative work and boost my CV.
ELLIE AJAO - ALTO
Hi! I’m Ellie. My love of choral music started when I was a young child, listening to my grandmother’s church choir while I slept in a pram at the back of the church. Not that I remember the music, and not that I had any clue what was going on, but I always listened so attentively apparently… Since, I’ve drifted in between all sorts of ensembles, from Christmas carols in church to performing ‘Sing’ on Gary Barlow’s world tour with my school choir. That was great and all, but little did I know it was all preparing me for choral life at Royal Holloway. Since I’ve been in the choir, we’ve recorded three CDs, and one of those recordings was in Paris! Yes, we get the opportunity to travel all over the country, which is great, but we also get to travel all over Europe as part of our job. In my first term in the choir, we went to Stuttgart for a Christmas concert, to sing beautiful music to an audience of what must have been a thousand people, and even managed a standing ovation at the end. I love singing Evensong and Eucharist services, but concerts have always been my favourite thing! That’s why being regular guests at venues such as St Martin-in-the-Fields, St John’s Smith Square, and Apsley House is such a privilege. When we aren’t busy travelling around London to sing, we get to sing and livestream weekly lunchtime concerts from our beautiful college chapel which is FAB.
Plenty of people in the choir are heading towards various careers in the music industry, but that isn’t for me. I want to be a TV presenter or work somewhere in the media. You might wonder why I brought that up, but it’s just because of how much being in the choir develops you outside of being a musician. The choir has instilled me with a sense of confidence that I just haven’t found in myself before. It’s taught me time management (big time), this thing called “professionalism” and above all, it’s taught me how much one person contributes to something so much bigger.
When not singing, I lead the university Symphony Orchestra (which is also broken down into a Chamber Orchestra which regularly plays with the London Mozart Players). I learned how to play hockey and I’ve been social secretary of the university Music Society (the biggest society on campus!). We also manage to fit in some university work in here and there, it is this business that I would not change for the world. For me, it is by far what makes me love Royal Holloway as much as I do and I would urge anybody to apply, apply, apply!
JAMES EDGELER - TENOR
Hi, I'm James! I have been a choral singer almost my entire life; since first singing with my mum’s church choir when I was four years old, I have sung as a treble at Chichester Cathedral, as a choral scholar at school and then on my gap year at Gloucester Cathedral. I am now in my fourth and final year as a Choral Scholar at Royal Holloway.
Of course, I really enjoy the university and its fantastic campus and the music degree I’m studying is well taught, diverse, and highly ranked but in all honesty, what really swayed me to apply to Royal Holloway was the choir. I love all the classic liturgical music and we get to do our fair share of it here, but what struck me most when discovering Royal Holloway was that the choir not only performed services but also regular concerts which featured so much fantastic repertoire, much of which I had never before encountered. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of this choir. I don’t think I can recall a single week in my three years where I haven’t been introduced to something that is either new to me or brand new entirely. This doesn’t just give you great exposure to the wealth and diversity of choral music out there, but it keeps choir incredibly interesting, challenging and exciting. We work fast with lots of music, much of which is often unknown to most or all of the choir and have an incredibly high standard to achieve week after week. It’s challenging but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun or rewarding if it wasn’t.
Despite having a heavily choral background, I would regard myself as (and hope after university to be) a soloist. This is something that in previous choirs has often led to me being anxious about my singing, feeling that I needed to make significant adjustments for a choral setting. However, in my time at Holloway I have never felt that I have needed to make any large-scale changes, and this is the same for many members of the choir, a lot of whom are budding soloists. This side of singing is, in fact, actively encouraged, with many opportunities for substantial solo work being available, whether through arias in larger works that the choir is performing, one-off solo songs to complement a concert programme or even through external engagements for which he choir has been requested to provide soloists.
Naturally there is so much more to the choir that makes being a part of it such a great opportunity; I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of international tours and CD recordings that we do. However, as university students there is obviously more to our lives than just choir and this is where I think Royal Holloway’s choir really excels. The workload is tough, yes, and takes a lot of dedication but it never gets in the way of my degree. In fact I am one of many scholars from years past and present who has found the time to fit in extra activities with societies and sports clubs on top of all this, having been a part of the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras for my first two years and still being able to play regularly for the university’s Hockey 1st XI. Having known some Scholars from other universities I am aware that this is a very lucky position to be in and all this without for a moment sacrificing any quality from the excellent professional preparation and all-round great time of being a choral scholar.
BEN RICHARDS - BASS
Hello all! My name is Ben and I’m a music Masters student going into my fourth year as a choral scholar. Being a music student, and specifically studying choral conducting with Rupert, the degree and the choral scholarship fit together like a glove, and I enjoy the privilege of performing and studying music every day.
Before I joined the choir, liturgical choral singing was pretty alien to me. Having grown up in rural Pembrokeshire, I cut my teeth in local community choirs, where I was given a folder of music and had to sight read on the hoof, in the middle of a concert! It was exhilarating and a little daunting, but it thankfully prepared me for the speed at which the Choir of Royal Holloway operates.
In the end I can safely say joining the choir was the best decision I have made in my life. I distinctly remember logging on to the choir’s online calendar before the start of term in my first year and reading to my surprise that we’d be heading to the Netherlands at Christmas and North America over Easter. It was a bit of shock to know we’d be jetting off to these destinations, but the experiences from those and many other trips abroad are the real highlights of my time in the choir. There’s nothing better than travelling from concert to concert, singing music we know like the back of our hand and looking out to an appreciative audience, who would often erupt into rapturous applause. It is those moments that we live for as performers, but what makes the choir experience extra special is that you’re sharing those moments with your closest friends, who very quickly feel like family and who make the university experience an absolute joy. Sure, sometimes it isn’t always easy going, but we grow together, both vocally and personally, and there’s no better place to learn the workings of the professional music world whilst having a chuffing great time. I can’t recommend it enough!