Music plays a vital role within worship at the Abbey.

Sherborne Abbey’s choral tradition is nationally famous. Singing two weekend services almost throughout the year, and daily in the lead up to Christmas and Easter, the choir currently consists of 14 adult altos, tenors and basses, and 18 boy choristers who all attend local schools.

The Director of Music, Jamie Henderson, may be contacted on

There is a programme of concerts in The Abbey throughout the year, with half hour organ recitals taking place during term-time on Mondays at 1.30 pm.  The magnificent organ in The Abbey is by Gray & Davison.

Organ Recitals

Lunchtime organ recitals (free entry with a retiring collection) take place on Mondays during term-time from 1.30pm – 2.00 pm. Please click on Services & Events for more details.

The Abbey is also a focal point for many musical events in the town, with concerts taking place each month by a wide range of performers from the region and beyond.

Its annual award-winning Music Festival takes place during May and over the last twenty years has welcomed a large number of local, national and international performers.

The choir of adults and boy choristers has a long and illustrious tradition stretching back over several hundred years.

Its principal function is to lead The Abbey’s congregation in its Sunday services each week and it sings a wide range of music, ranging from medieval plainsong to the most contemporary choral music.

There are 16 choristers, aged 8 and upwards, who all attend local schools. The adults of the choir are comprised of a number of local singers and two Sherborne School Choral Scholars who sing in the choir for a year — usually between leaving school and going to university. The Director of Music, James Henderson, is always glad to hear from anyone interested in becoming a member of the choir. Vacancies arise from time to time and are advertised on this website.

Potential Choral and Organ Scholars should contact the Director of Music at any stage of the year, though the posts are generally advertised in January with interviews in February and March.

The choir has made trips to Paris, singing in Notre Dame Cathedral, Chartres Cathedral and the Church of Saint-Sulpice, and has also sung for services in Rouen Cathedral. The choir has also made two CDs.

There are two choral services each Sunday during term-time. At the 9.30am Sung Eucharist the choir sings a variety of mass settings and motets, whilst at Choral Evensong it sings an Introit, Preces and Responses, psalm, canticles and anthem. School holidays and half terms are all observed, except for a few days over Christmas and Easter. There are also a number of social activities and every three or four years the choir undertakes a trip abroad.

During his years in the choir, he will be trained to professional standards in performing. He will acquire a sense of purpose, of self-discipline and an awareness both of adult standards and of glorious music, words and architecture. It is a training which sets a boy up for life, in whatever field he may eventually choose.

On two days a week there is a morning rehearsal before the normal school day begins. Sunday is a busy day, with a morning and evening service. School holidays and half terms are all observed, except for a few days over Christmas and Easter. Choristers also have fun in plenty of non-musical activities such as cricket, ice skating, outdoor pursuits and the annual trip to the pantomime.

Abbey Choristers are paid – unlike boys at many cathedrals. There are several ranks within the choir, from Probationer to Head Chorister, to which a boy will aspire. With each higher grade comes greater responsibility—and higher pay!

How do you get in?

All we look for when we audition is a quick ear, a bright eye, the beginnings of a musical voice and a reasonable reading ability. We can do the rest! No training is necessary, though having started to learn an instrument can be an advantage as it helps a boy to read music and listen.

The alto, tenor and bass sections of the Abbey Choir are made up of singers based in and around Sherborne, together with two Sherborne School Choral Scholars who sing in the choir for a year, usually between leaving school and going to university.

The commitment is one practice, held on Fridays evenings at 7.15 – 9.15pm, and two services on Sunday – 9.30am Sung Eucharist and 6.00pm Choral Evensong. In addition there are occasional weddings and other services coinciding with the major events during the church year: Christmas, Lent and Easter.

Sherborne Abbey choir gown


Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Abbey Choir should, in the first instance, contact the Director of Music James Henderson. Prospective members are encouraged to attend a number of rehearsals to discover more.

Each year The Abbey, in conjunction with Sherborne School, appoints three gap year Choral Scholars. Ideally, these will be one each of alto, tenor and bass voices, though there is some flexibility. Interviews for the gap year Choral Scholarships usually take place in February each year. Further information and details for application can be found in the attached link.  Choral Scholarships.

Mr James Henderson

Mr James Henderson

Director of Music and Organist

MA, Late Organ Scholar of Exeter College, Oxford
Tel: 01935 810518
Mob: 07879 813017

Each year the Abbey, in conjunction with Sherborne School,
appoints a Gap Year Organ Scholar, who works under the direction of the Director of Music.

Interviews for the Organ Scholarship usually take place in February each year. For further information please click here

Mr James Henderson

Mr James Henderson

Director of Music and Organist

MA, Late Organ Scholar of Exeter College, Oxford
Tel: 01935 810518
Mob: 07879 813017

The Organ of Sherborne Abbey

The organ is located above the North Transept and was originally installed by Gray and Davison in 1856, based on their gold medal winning organ shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

In 1951 the organ was rebuilt, with an electro-pneumatic action and a remote console being installed by J W Walker & Sons. Some tonal adjustments were made by the Bristol-based organ builder, John Coulson, in 1971 but the electro-pneumatic action soon declined and a complete rebuild was carried out by Bishop & Sons in 1986/7, reinstating a mechanical action.

A major rebuild and improvement of the organ was carried out by Kenneth Tickell & Co. in 2004/5, most notably adding the Nave division, which sits below the Great West Window.

The Organ – Technical Specification

The specification of the organ as rebuilt by Kenneth Tickell & Co. of Northampton.

Great Organ
• Double Diapason 16
• Open Diapason I 8
• Open Diapason II 8
• Stopped Diapason 8
• Octave 4
• Harmonic Flute 4
• Twelfth 2⅔
• Fifteenth 2
• Sesquialtera III
• Mixture IV-V
• Trumpet 8
11 stops

Swell Organ
• Open Diapason 8
• Clarinet Flute 8
• Keraulophon 8
• Vox Angelica 8
• Principal 4
• Nason Flute 4
• Gemshorn 2
• Mixture IV
• Double Trumpet 16
• Cornopean 8
• Hautboy 8
• Clarion 4
• Tremulant
12 stops

Choir Organ
• Clarabella 8
• Gamba 8
• Principal 4
• Wald Flute 4
• Flageolet 2
• Cornet IV
• Mixture III
• Clarinet 8
8 stops

Pedal Organ
• Open Wood 16
• Open Diapason 16
• Bourdon 16
• Quint 10⅔
• Principal 8
• Super Octave 4
• Contra Batten 32
• Trombone 16
8 stops

Nave Section
• Open Diapason 8
• Stopped Diapason 8
• Principal 4
• Fifteenth 2
• Mixture IV
• Subbass (Pedal) 16
6 stops

• Swell to Great
• Choir to Great
• Nave on Great
• Swell to Choir
• Nave on Choir
• Swell to Pedal
• Great to Pedal
• Choir to Pedal

Combination Couplers
• Great & Pedal Combinations coupled
• Generals on Swell Toe Pistons

• Manuals: 58 notes
• Pedals: 30 notes

• Pedal 100
• Great 82
• Swell 78
• Choir 70
• Nave 70

Transept organ
• Tracker key action, slider soundboards with optional electric coupling
• Electric stop and combination actions with sequencer

Nave organ
Electric key and stop action, slider soundboards