The London Oratory School Schola was established in 1996 as a means of providing Catholic boys from the age of seven with a rigorous choral education within the maintained (state school) system, something hitherto only available in the independent (private) system. The school's close association with the London Oratory Church places it in a strong, if not unique, position to provide this form of specialist education and to contribute to the development of traditional liturgical music. The partnership between the Oratory and the school provides ideal opportunities for the school to train boys within the context of a living tradition of catholic liturgy.
The London Oratory School ScholaThe Oratory Church is part of a dynamic liturgical and musical tradition which goes back to the sixteenth century when the first Oratory was established in Rome at the time of the Counter-Reformation. Both Palestrina and Victoria were closely associated with the Oratory and Philip Neri, its founder, and Victoria became an Oratorian. In particular, the Oratory in Europe has been closely associated with the development of polyphony and the chant. The Oratory in London has a reputation for maintaining this tradition and for providing some of the finest liturgy and liturgical music in Europe today.
The school has a strong musical tradition and for many years has been closely associated with liturgy and music of the Oratory Church. The Schola sings at the Saturday evening Mass at the Oratory every week in term time and at other Masses and services during and outside term, and in the School Chapel every weekday morning. In addition to the liturgical commitment, concert work and touring are a regular feature of the choristers' lives. The choir also features on film soundtracks, including the whole of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The choir recorded a CD of Christmas Carols, 'Songs of a Shepherd' in 2001, released on the Herald record label.
Choristers normally join the school at the age of seven and are selected by audition, examination and interview, although places may sometimes be available to boys who join the school, including the sixth form, later. Choristers rehearse at 8 o'clock every morning, as well as for an hour immediately before services. Boys are given individual voice training. The Schola is supported by lay clerks (professional singers), some of whom are members of the Oratory Choir. Choristers are fully involved in other aspects of the musical life of the school.
The choir's founding director was Michael McCarthy. After seven years, Michael McCarthy moved to the USA where he is director of music at Washington National Cathedral. His place as Director of the Schola was taken by Steven Grahl, who remained in post until February 2006. The current director is Lee Ward, who combines this work with his duties as Director of Music at The London Oratory School.
In 2006 the Schola marked its 10th anniversary with a spectacular concert at St. John's, Smith Square. A further important milestone was reached on February 9th 2007 when the choir launched the Schola Foundation, a charitable company designed to secure the future of the Schola for many years to come. The launch concert at the London Oratory church featured Haydn's Mass in Time of War and Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. This concert received a four star review from the British national newspaper, the Sunday Express.
The choir toured Rome in April and May 2007 where they sang in front of Pope Benedict XVI, and will again visit Rome in July of this year to sing in a concert for Live Earth. Further tours and recordings are planned for 2007 and 2008. The choir has also toured Paris, the East Coast of America and Neresheim in Germany in recent years.
The choir's Patrons are HRH Princess Michael of Kent, the actor Simon Callow and the composer James MacMillan (musician).
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