George de Voil, Director of Music at St James’ Church and Assistant Director of Music at Wellington College.
On any given day I might be directing the school musical… running a junior choir, leading chapel services, preparing GCSE students for imminent exams…
I am somewhat unusual among recent Exeter College Organ Scholars, because I am pursuing a career as an organist and choir director. This may come as a surprise to readers. Isn’t such a path one of the most common after three years running the music in one of Oxford’s great chapels? No! The last eight Parry-Wood Organ Scholars are building careers variously in arts administration, aviation, politics, charity work, accountancy, and opera. This is a testament to the skills and interests cultivated during three years at Oxford.
Alongside my work as Director of Music at St James’s Church, Sussex Gardens W2 – where I direct the professional choir and, increasingly, am responsible for a restoration project on the historic organ – I do freelance work with various chamber choirs, choral societies, and orchestras. I am also Assistant Director of Music at Wellington College, where I run the Chapel Choir, teach both music and the organ, and help to run a boarding house. In this regard I have joined a legion of – slightly less recent! – Exonians who are now running the music departments in schools such as Charterhouse, Rugby, Sherborne, and Latymer Upper.
The last twenty years of my life have been spent in two schools, punctuated by Exeter. So I accept the charge of being institutionalised! However, I feel very lucky to be living in a beautiful place, and I love the variety of school life. On any given day I might be directing the school musical, teaching diploma-level organ students, swimming, running a junior choir, leading chapel services, preparing GCSE students for imminent exams, or embarking on a trip abroad.
I take great pride in being an Exonian and love coming back to give recitals, play for services, and hear the choir going from strength to strength under my superb successors. The job of organ scholar at Exeter is (and should be!) one of the most demanding positions in the college and one of the most all-consuming organ scholarships at Oxford. He or she deserves every support and certainly has my admiration. Bravo!