Music at St Barnabas


The Choirs

Music has played an important part in the liturgical life of the church since the building was consecrated in 1869. From the very early days of St Barnabas, plainchant has resonated within the walls of our magnificent Byzantine-inspired church. Today, the church boasts an adult choir, a junior choir, and a ritual choir, each of which plays a part in providing the music for the liturgy. There is also a music staff consisting of a Director of Music, an Assistant Director, and The Organist. We also have an organ scholar in training, and always have several new opportunities for musicians seeking to expand their experience of music and liturgical practice.

Today we strive for dignified but unstuffy worship for all ages, served by committed amateur choirs singing music that connects us directly with the ancient traditions of the universal church. Over the last 5 years we have restored much of the original practice including the regular use of Propers either in Sarum versions or the English Gradual psalm-tones; more use of plainsong mass settings as well as polyphony, and a greater focus on congregational rather than solely choral singing.

The Schola Cantorum is made up of skilled adult volunteers and a few young Ouseley Choral Scholars drawn from the parish and further afield. This choir sings from September until the middle of July and their repertoire is distinctly ‘Catholic’ – unaccompanied polyphonic mass settings and motets and a significant amount of plainsong. The Schola Cantorum rehearses on Sunday mornings before Mass, from 9.15am.

The St Barnabas Choristers consists of boys and girls aged 6-16. The choristers sing with the Schola Cantorum once or twice a month, and at major festivals including: Easter, Pentecost, Dedication Sunday, Harvest, All Saints, and at Carol Services in Advent and Christmas.

Choristers rehearse with the Schola Cantorum on Sunday mornings from 9.45am when they are singing, and weekly on Friday evenings during term time. Choristers are guided through the RSCM Voice for Life programme, receiving free vocal tuition and a singing lesson once a term. For more information and for how to join the choristers click here.

The Ritual Choir meets throughout the summer when the full choir is on recess. They lead the congregational singing of Merbecke’s Communion Service, and sing the Propers, plainsong psalm and hymns appropriate to the day. This group sometimes sings a plainsong anthem during the distribution of Mass.

To enquire about joining the choirs, please contact our Director of Music, Dr Tom Edwards who is always happy to hear from prospective singers.

Musical and Liturgical Education

Supported by the Ouseley Trust and other charities we educate organ and choral scholars from the city of Oxford, and provide trainee clergy with opportunities to understand how traditional worship and music underpins more modern traditions. We have strong relationships with all three of Oxford’s theological colleges; and with colleges of the University. Our music team benefits from the Sunday by Sunday presence at worship of Dr Matthew Salisbury, a member of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society and National Liturgy and Worship Adviser to the Church of England; and the Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt DD, Professor of the History of the Church. Our educational work, and our interpretation of how to use traditional liturgy in a modern parish context, is thus informed by world-class expertise and research.

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