Meet Dominic Remedios: The Downing College Organ Scholar
Organ Scholarships in Cambridge give opportunities to talented organists to develop their skills significantly during the period of their academic studies. These scholars are appointed by Colleges to play the organ for chapel services and to direct or assist in the work of the choir. We recently spoke to Downing's Organ Scholar, Dominic Remedios, about his role and his time at Downing.
What do you study, and when did you start at Downing?
I matriculated in October 2021 and I'm currently in my 2nd year studying Geography.
Has music always been a big part of your life?
Most definitely. My family’s involvement in the music group at our local church has meant that I have been around music my whole life. In addition, the variety of musical ensembles that I have played in throughout my teenage life had a huge effect on my development as a person and a musician.
When did you learn to play the organ? Also, do you play any other instruments?
When learning the organ, you really have to start by learning the piano. I first started piano lessons aged 5 and, after a few years of development, took up the organ aged 12 after joining secondary school. I also play the trumpet and sing tenor.
How did you find about the organ scholarships at Cambridge?
I remember visiting Cambridge to sing evensong in Trinity College Chapel with my school liturgical choir in 2019. After trying out the chapel organ, I was made aware of the opportunities for regular organ-playing at Cambridge!
What made you choose Downing?
Applying as a prospective organ scholar, a significant part of my decision was the work-life balance that the Downing Choir offered with 1-2 services a week. This seemed a perfect fit for me as I wanted to pursue sports as well in my spare time. In addition, the beautiful aesthetic of the Downing Domus was an immediate draw for me.
What does being Organ Scholar actually entail?
At Downing, the Organ Scholar is responsible for the day-to-day running of the choir. My role involves accompanying and conducting the choir in its Sunday services, sharing duties with the Assistant Director of Music. Furthermore, I also have various admin duties including: organising the annual choir tour (to Paris this year), sorting choir dinners, and creating service booklets for special services. Throughout the year, I am mentored by the Director of Music to develop my musical skills in conducting, leadership, and knowledge of choral repertoire.
Is it much extra work on top of your studies?
Yes, it certainly keeps me busy during the week. On top of the weekly rehearsals (Thursdays) and services (Sundays), I must factor in time for organ practice, weekly admin duties, and regular meetings with the choir leadership team.
How much practice do you have to put in each week?
Inevitably this varies weekly, but I usually practise around 3-4 hours each week outside of the normal choir rehearsal schedule.
How many services do you play at in the Chapel each year?
The choir sings roughly 30 services per year, plus a few special services such as the Commemoration of the Benefactors.
Which is your favourite service to play at?
I absolutely love playing and conducting for the Advent Carol Service each year. It’s the final service of Michaelmas term where the majority of Downing packs into the chapel to sing carols and listen to the choir. The choir also travels down to London to repeat the service for the alumni, which is always an exciting chance to play and sing in a large London church.
What’s been your favourite memory of being in Chapel Choir?
Personally, it would have to be our tour of Scandinavia in July 2022. It was amazing to sing in so many different churches, play on cathedral organs, and to travel together as a choir. The tour also provided a break from the busy life of Cambridge, and I enjoyed exploring the beautiful cities of Gothenburg and Bergen.
How can others join the choir?
We hold annual auditions in October for any students interested in joining the choir; however, we are always happy to listen to prospective singers throughout the year. One fantastic opportunity to join the choir is through the University Choral Awards Scheme which runs annually in March.
Are you involved in any other musical groups at Downing?
As a keen trumpeter, I am a member and co-leader of the Downing Jazz Band. We rehearse weekly and play a range of gigs through the term from open mic nights to entertainment upstairs in Downing Bar for special events.
How would you describe the musical life at Downing?
The musical life at Downing is thriving, with the college Music Society putting on a variety of events throughout the term. In addition to the weekly chapel services, concerts include solo recitals, the Fresher’s concert, chamber music recitals, and much more! In addition to the Downing Jazz Band, other musical ensembles include the Trumpington Street Orchestra and the Downing String Quartet.
Published 13 April 2023