Choral Scholar Profile
Esther Brazil (2005–2008)
Esther Brazil was a Choral Scholar at Queen's whilst reading Philosophy and Theology.
After leaving Queen's Esther gained a full scholarship for postgraduate vocal study at the Royal Academy of Music and is now a professional singer, performing regularly with groups such as The Monteverdi Choir and The Sixteen. She writes of her time in Queen's Choir:
'For aspiring choral scholars, Oxford offers a great deal of choice. I auditioned for Queen’s choir because of its reputation as Oxford’s leading mixed-voice choir, and its fine music director, Dr Owen Rees, a noted conductor and early music specialist who has led the choir from strength to strength since his appointment.
My experience with the choir over my three years as an undergraduate at Queen’s was extremely rewarding. Queen’s offers a healthy balance in terms of its time commitment, maintaining high musical standards while allowing Choral Scholars to devote ample time to their academic work through a routine of thrice-weekly services and a broad repertoire. Each week, singers commit around seven hours in the form of three Evensongs and four rehearsals, three of which are immediately before services; the other is dedicated to concert repertoire. The choir’s activities also include concerts, special services, recordings, broadcasts, and an annual international tour.
The choir is arguably at its best in each term’s 7th-week concert, when it joins ensembles such as the London Handel Orchestra to perform, in our beautiful neo-classical Chapel, works demanding a high level of musicality and professionalism, drawing sell-out audiences and glowing reviews.
One of the choir’s greatest strengths lies in its singers’ diversity of experience. Choral Scholars are selected on the basis of musical talent, commitment, and artistic potential; and, while many first years emerge from the English choral tradition or comparable overseas backgrounds, some come up to Queen’s with little or no such experience. The choir’s atmosphere is one that encourages rapid integration, however, and new Choral Scholars have always been successful at fitting into the musical routine and quickly growing in competence and skill, which in turn makes singing here more enjoyable, as the majority of rehearsal time is spent on interpretation, not note-learning. For the more experienced singer, there is ample scope for artistic development and performance exposure, and generous funds are provided to every Choral Scholar for singing lessons.
As an international student, I felt at home in the Queen’s choir because of its friendliness, good humour, and openness: its atmosphere fosters close friendships within a tightly-knit group of fine musicians. Among the other Oxford choirs, I believe that Queen’s offers a particularly unpretentious and rigorous musical environment in which any singer has the potential to flourish, and the skill-set one gains as a Choral Scholar provides an excellent foundation for any career, musical or otherwise.
I have found that, in my own career since leaving Queen’s, studying at the Royal Academy of Music and singing with groups such as The Sixteen and the Monteverdi Choir, the training I received under Dr Rees has proved invaluable. This was especially true in one of my most recent professional engagements, performing solos in a European tour of Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. The sight-reading skills, focus, musicality, and professionalism that are such an integral part of a Choral Scholar’s training are still absolutely essential in the professional world. This applies equally to preparation and performance of auditions, rehearsing and performing chamber or choral music, and the process of working with a pianist to prepare one’s own recitals.'