The Chapel and Choir

The Chapel

Click here for the Chapel's website

The College Chapel was completed in 1791, but its interior was transformed into the riot of colour, humour and detail that it is today by William Burges in 1864. The paintings and woodwork include many jokes, whilst the animals at the ends of the pews are a mixture of the weird and wonderful, including a unicorn and blue whale. Based on the five morning canticles, the decoration presents the wonders of creation within the scheme of salvation, creating one of the most beautiful and structured Chapel interiors in Oxford. The Chapel is open every day and is the perfect place to reflect.

The Chapel is the spiritual heart of the College and is also its centre of Christian worship. It aims to be the home for all Christian branches in College and is available for people of all beliefs. All are welcome to attend Chapel services: members of any religion or of none, members of Worcester or not.

The Chaplain is the Reverend Dr Tess Kuin Lawton, and she is pastorally available to all members of the College at any time. Her room is Nuffield 11 (telephone (2)78371).

Chapel Services

Services are held throughout the week in full term, and several are choral services with one or both of our two choirs. There is a mixed-voice choir (which sings Evensong on Mondays at 6.15pm, and the Eucharist at 6 pm on Thursdays) and a choir in which the upper part is sung by trebles from Christ Church Cathedral School (which sings Evensong on Sundays at 5.45pm and Tuesdays at 6.15pm). These choirs are run under the direction of the Organ Scholars. The choirs also offer Choral awards to all voices. The repertoire of settings for Evensong and the Eucharist range from the Renaissance, right through to the very modern. The choirs also give regular concerts in the Chapel, haved toured across Europe and have produced several CDs, which can be obtained from the College Lodge.

The main weekly service is the Sunday College Evensong at 5.45pm, with sermon, and during which a collection is taken for charity. Evensong is also sung on Tuesdays, whilst every other Thursday there is a Sung Eucharist where full members of all Christian denominations are very welcome to receive Communion. On Wednesday nights at 9.00pm one of the members of the choir sings the monastic night office of Compline, a serene way to end the day.

Other services in Chapel are said and these, like the choral services, follow the rites of the Church of England.

Service Times

Sunday 5.45pm: College Evensong with sermon. Sung by one or both choirs


Monday 6.15pm: Choral Evening Prayer. Normally sung by the adult mixed-voice choir

Tuesday 6.15pm: Choral Evensong. Sung by the boys and adults

Wednesday 9.00pm: Compline

Thursday 8.15am: Morning Prayer

Thursday 6.00pm: Choral Eucharist or Evensong (on alternate weeks). Sung by the adult mixed-voiced choir

Friday 8.15am: Morning Prayer

The Woodroffe Society weekly lunch

The Society was founded in 1947 as a forum for the discussion of moral, ethical and religious issues. Every Monday lunchtime from 12.30pm until 2 pm a group meet in the Chaplain's room for lunch to talk about God, ethics, faith, doubt, the bible or just life. All are welcome to this open, sociable, non-judgmental and frank discussion group.

The Choir

Worcester is unique among the Oxford colleges in that it has not one, but two flourishing chapel choirs of equal status, which share the weekly services between them. There is a mixed-voice choir (which sings Evensong on Mondays, and the Eucharist on Thursdays), and a choir in which the upper part is sung by trebles from Christ Church Cathedral School (which sings Evensong on Sundays and Tuesdays). This choir includes the mixed choir's contraltos as well as male countertenors, and as such is unusual amongst Oxford chapel choirs in its constitution.

These choirs are run on a day-to-day basis by Worcester's three Organ Scholars.

A wide variety of music is performed in Worcester chapel, ranging from the early, such as Palestrina, right through to the very modern, such as the work of Professor Robert Saxton, the current Fellow in Music at the college. Student composers studying under Professor Saxton for the degree in music are also given the opportunity to write works for the choir. In this way, members of the choir are able to experience music of all kinds, and gain a broad knowledge and understanding of the sacred choral repertory.

Choral Awards

Choral awards are available to male and female undergraduates and postgraduates of Worcester College reading for any Oxford degree. In addition, choral awards are occasionally given to singers who are not members of the College. The awards are called Choral Scholarships for members of the College and Choral Bursaries for others. The number of awards available, which have a value of £200 p.a., depends on the needs of the choir.

Students can apply for a choral award, in advance of submitting their application for an academic place at Oxford, in September of each year. This University-wide scheme involves choral trials towards the end of the month. Candidates have to make a separate application for their course and undergo academic assessment and selection as part of the normal application process. Only if the offer of a subject place is made in December may the Choral Award be confirmed. Full details are available in the University Prospectus.

Once you become an undergraduate or graduate student of the College you can also apply for an award. These awards are made as the result of voice trials held at the beginning of Michaelmas term (October) each year.

Holders of choral awards are required to sing in the Chapel Choir at the services and rehearsals as necessary, and may also be called upon from time to time to assist the Organ Scholars in other duties relating to the choir.