The King's (The Cathedral) School


Music is central to the life of The King’s (The Cathedral) School. As the Cathedral School, The King’s School educates the Cathedral Choristers, who rehearse in the Music Department each morning. There are many more practising musicians of considerable ability at the school, with over 300 music lessons being taught each week. This results in a wide range of extra-curricular music groups which perform to a high standard throughout the School year both in Peterborough and in the wider community.

"Children who have music education are more likely to have greater self-esteem and self-confidence, participate in extra-curricular activities and are less likely to drop out of school. Research shows that… music instruction is linked to improved social and emotional development and more creative thinking…. Music education positively impacts students’ learning… students are more engaged, have higher attendance rates and better academic achievement. Engaged students are more likely to reach their true academic and individual potential."

Katherine Damkohler
Executive Director, Education Through Music (2016)

Music is prepared for the official occasions of the School year, Cathedral Services and concerts, and for the popular music tours to Europe which take place every two years. In the past musicians have performed in Normandy (Bayeux Cathedral), Rome (St Peter’s Basilica), Venice (St. Mark’s Basilica), Siena, Prague, Budapest, Weimar, Cologne, Ypres, Vienna and Catalonia.

The Music Department is located in the former Boarding House of the School,  Madeley House, a large Victorian property set in its own grounds which is a two-minute walk from the main School, and which adjoins the Junior Department. Facilities include:

  • M1 - A large teaching and rehearsal room
  • M2 - A teaching and rehearsal room
  • M3 - A music computer room
  • 11 Practice Rooms
  • Music Office
  • Music Library
  • Tutor Group Base and Sixth Form Study Area
  • 2 Orchestral Instrument Store Rooms
  • Percussion/Keyboard/Music Store

All teaching and practice rooms have a piano. M1, M2 and M3 have sound systems. Portable sound equipment is also available. In the main School building the School Hall also has a grand piano and a sound system, and the Chaplaincy has an electric piano.


Music is taught as a curriculum subject to all students in Years 3-6, and there is an emphasis on practical music-making. Performing, composing, listening and appraising and working with fellow students are at the heart of the Music curriculum. At Key Stage 2 pupils are introduced to the main Elements of Music, exploring how they combine to produce music with different effects and purposes.

Year 3

  • Developing Rhythm - Music from Around the World
  • Exploring Timbre - Noah's Ark
  • Exploring Intervals & Pitch - Songs from the Musicals
  • Instruments of the Orchestra - Peter and the Wolf
  • Repeated Patterns - Music of South America
  • Singing Games - Using Our Voices

Year 4

  • Global Music - Rhythmic Patterns and Duration
  • Pentatonic Scales & Composition
  • Volcanoes - Timbre and Sound Colours
  • First & Second World Wars - Music Hall and Performance Skills
  • Musical Processes - Musical Composition (i)
  • Roald Dahl - Singing and Drama

Year 5

  • Music of Ancient Greece
  • Stomp - Ostinato Patterns
  • Composing With Purpose - Writing Music for Adverts
  • Superheroes - Leitmotif
  • Man Before Dinosaurs - Timbre and Dynamics
  • Rounds - Singing and Intervals

Year 6

  • Mayan Music - Combining Pitch and Ostinato Patterns
  • Sound Sources - Exploring Space and Timbre
  • Famous Composers - Music History
  • Musical Processes - Musical Composition (ii)
  • Song Writing - Lyrics and Music


The Music curriculum which is followed by all pupils in Years 7–9 comprises Performing, Composing, and Listening and Appraising.  At Key Stage 3 pupils work individually, in small groups and as a class and learn about the elements of music and associated vocabulary, specific techniques of composition, and musical styles and genres:

Year 7

  • Music for Occasions
  • Minimalism
  • Gamelan
  • African Music
  • Medieval Music
  • Impressionism

Year 8

  • Structures in Music (Binary, Ternary, Rondo, Variations, Ground Bass)
  • Renaissance, Classical and Romantic Music
  • Blues
  • Music for Film and TV
  • Music for Dance
  • 20th Century Styles and Techniques

Year 9

  • Popular Music in Context
  • Blues Song
  • Jazz
  • Swing
  • Rock & Roll
  • 1960s Culture
  • Musicals
  • Today’s Music (including Salsa and Bhangra)


In Years 10 and 11 students follow the Edexcel 1MU0 Music GCSE specification. The course consists of the three main areas of Performing, Composing, and Appraising Music, and all are influenced by four Areas of Study.

Component 1: Performing (30%)

Students prepare, perform and record two performances, one solo and one in a group. No specific ABRSM/Trinity Guildhall exam grades are required for this part of the course. However, please see What Makes a Good Music Student for further information. The difficulty level of the music performed is taken into account in the assessment of each performance. 

Component 2: Composing (30%)

Students compose, as individuals, two compositions using styles and techniques of their choice. One is a free composition, the other is in response to an externally set brief.  Much of this work is prepared using the computer facilities of the Department, particularly the Sibelius notation program, and emphasis is on making effective use of the musical elements e.g. structure, melody, harmony and rhythm.

Component 3: Appraising Music (40%)

Students study specific pieces of music from the four Areas of Study (Instrumental Music 1700-1820, Vocal Music, Music for Stage and Screen, and Fusions). They listen to the music and analyse scores, recognising the essential features of the music and placing the music in context. This area is assessed through an exam paper with listening exercises using excerpts of music.

Year 10

Pupils study Stephen Schwartz's 'Defying Gravity' (from Wicked), John Williams' 'Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner' (from the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Purcell's 'Music For A While' and the third movement of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major. Study of the set works is complemented by listening to, and analysis of, related musical works and performance and composition activities. 

Year 11

Pupils study the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor (Pathétique), Afro Celt Sound System's 'Release' (from the album Volume 2: Release), Esperanza Spalding's 'Samba Em Preludio' (from the album Esperanza), and Queen's 'Killer Queen' (from the album Sheer Heart Attack). Study of the set works is again complemented by listening to, and analysis of, related musical works and performance and composition activities. 

At GCSE level, pupils must be able to:

  • Listen attentively to unfamiliar music from all four Areas of Study
  • Identify and describe the musical elements, using musical language and staff notation
  • Critically appraise the music from different study pieces showing understanding of:
    • the form and structure of the music
    • appropriate musical vocabulary for each work
    • stylistic features of the music
    • conventions used in different times and places
    • how the music relates to the context in which it was created
    • how to express and justify their opinions and preferences


In Years 12 and 13 students follow the Edexcel 9MU0 Music A-Level course. This leads on well from the GCSE course as students again analyse, perform and compose music building on what they have already learned. There are three components in the specification:

Component 1: Performance (30%)

Students perform as a soloist and/or as part of an ensemble. The programme of music must be at least 8 minutes in length. This is to be performed as a “Recital”. The level of difficulty of the music played should be either ABRSM / Trinity Guildhall Grade 7 or Grade 8.

Component 2: Composition (30%)

Students have to produce two compositions.  One is a free composition in the style and technique of their choice.  The second is based on a formal brief which is set by the exam board.  The total time across both compositions must be at least six minutes.

Component 3: Appraising Music (40%)

This unit is assessed by examination, with listening and written questions using excerpts of music. Students explore six areas of study, each with three set works (Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Music for Film, Popular Music and Jazz, Fusions, and New Directions), considering musical detail, analysis and aspects of social and historical context. Pupils also apply the knowledge learnt to unfamiliar works.

Year 12

Pupils study J.S. Bach's cantata 'Ein Feste Burg', Vaughan Williams' 'On Wenlock Edge', Clara Wieck-Schumann's Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 17, First Movement, and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Pupils also study Debussy's 'Estampes', Danny Elfman's 'Batman Returns', and 'Psycho' by Bernard Hermann. Study of the set works is complemented by listening to, and analysis of, related musical works and performance and composition activities.

Year 13

Pupils study Kate Bush's Hounds Of LoveRevolver by The Beatles, Anoushka Shankar's 'Breathing Under Water', Kaija Saariaho's 'Petals for Violoncello and Live Electronics', and Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring. Study of the set works is again complemented by listening to, and analysis of, related musical works and performance and composition activities.

What Makes A Good Music Student?

There are certain characteristics which help to set up music students for success and enable music students to fulfill their potential when studying formally for both GCSE and A-Level qualifications.  These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Practical music performance skills to a standard of at least the equivalent of ABRSM / Trinity Guildhall Grade 3 for GCSE Music, and Grade 5 for A Level.
  • A good working knowledge of traditional notation and the willingness to extend this.
  • A willingness to participate in extra-curricular music to improve ensemble skills (e.g. Senior Choir, Orchestra, Concert Band, House Music Competition).
  • The desire to know more about music of all types – to listen to it, study it and read about it.

If you have any questions about the suitability of your child to study Music, or about the curriculum, please contact the Director of Music via e-mail at

Extra-Curricular Music

The Music Department offers varied and vibrant extra-curricular opportunities which involve pupils of all abilities and ages.  Participants are drawn not only from pupils who are studying Music at GCSE and A-Level, but also include many pupils who have instrumental and singing tuition in school, and others who simply enjoy performing music.

The extra-curricular calendar would normally comprise:


Rehearsal Time and Location

Senior Brass Ensemble

(Grades 5-8)

Monday, 8:30 am (M1)

Flute Choir

Monday, 8.30 am (M2)

Clarinet Group 2

Monday, 8.30 am (P7)


(Grades 6-8)

Monday, 1.20 pm (M1)

String Orchestra

Tuesday, 8.30 am (M1)

Clarinet Group 1

Wednesday, 8.30 am (M2)

Concert Band 2

Wednesday, 8.30 am (M1)

Training Orchestra

Wednesday, 1.20 pm (M1)

Junior Brass Ensemble

Wednesday, 1.30 pm (Library)

Upper Voices Chamber Choir

Wednesday, 1.30 pm (M2)

Sixth Form Jazz Ensemble

Wednesday, 2.30 pm (Library)

Lower Voices Chamber Choir

Thursday, 8.30 pm (M2)

Big Band

Thursday, 8.30 am (M1)

Junior Choir

Thursday, 8.30 am (M2)

Senior Choir

Thursday, 1.30 pm (M1)

Senior Concert Band

(Grades 6-8)

Friday, 8.30 am (M1)


Pupils also use the Music Department for regular smaller ensemble rehearsals such as string quartets, vocal ensembles and brass quintets, several of which are supervised by Music Department staff.

Choirs, Orchestras & Bands

The Senior Choir consists of over 40 talented singers, including ex-choristers, singing 4-part repertoire.  The Senior Choir is involved in many of the School’s services, including those at Peterborough Cathedral.   Recent concerts by the Senior Choir have included works by Vivaldi (Gloria) and Fauré (Requiem).

Please use this link to listen to the Senior Choir performing Bruckner’s motet Locus Iste.

The Orchestra comprises approximately 50 of the most able performers in the School. Recent performances include Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.4, Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto and Venus from Holst’s The Planets Suite.

Please use this link to listen to the Senior Orchestra performing Mozart’s Fourth Horn Concerto.

The Senior Concert Band comprises approximately fifty of the most talented musicians who perform a varied repertoire from Gershwin’s Symphonic Portrait and Rhapsody in Blue to Sibelius’ Finlandia.

Please use this link to listen to the Senior Concert Band performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Performing Opportunities

The Music Department has a busy annual calendar of concerts and services.  A typical academic year comprises:

Autumn Term                     

Christmas Concert at Peterborough Cathedral

End of Term Christmas Service - please click on the links below to listen to soloists from the School's Senior Choir performing in the Christmas Service in December 2020:

'Ave Maria' (J.S. Bach/C. Gounod)

'O Holy Night' (A. Adam)

'The Angels' Carol' (J. Rutter)

Spring Term

Mid-Term Concert

End of Term Concert

Summer Term

End of Term Concert

The Music Department is also involved in various other concerts each academic year e.g. the Remembrance Concert (Autumn 2014), the Howard Goodall Mixed Voices Concert (Spring 2015), the concert at Castle Acre Church (Summer 2016) and the Peterborough Hospital Carol Service (Winter 2016).

Pupils are regularly invited to perform at various high-profile local events e.g. the Petriburgians’ Reunion (Summer 2016) and the Schola Regia Ladies Festival (Spring 2017).

The Music Department contributes towards regular Drama productions.  Previous shows have included Les Misérables, Oliver!The Sound of MusicJoseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Grease and Little Shop Of Horrors.

Talented pianists are offered the opportunity to accompany hymn singing in twice-weekly whole school assemblies and the whole School takes part in regular hymn singing practices led by the Director of Music.

House Music

The highlight of the School’s year is the House Music Competition.  The event commences with the solo competitions where each of the School’s Houses, led by their House Captains, puts forward their best musicians in the categories of strings, woodwind, brass, piano, percussion, singing and guitar.  A winner is selected from each category and the overall winner for the best performance is then invited to perform at the main House Music event which takes place in October and typically attracts an audience of around 1,800.  The points from the solo competition contribute to the overall scores.

At the main event, which in recent years has taken place at The Kingsgate Church and Conference Centre in Peterborough, the House Captains host performances by the Orchestra, Choir, Junior Department and Band from each of the four Houses.

The competition is judged by an external guest, typically a Head of Music from another school or a professional musician, by invitation from the Director of Music.

Instrumental Teaching

The King’s School offers weekly one-to-one tuition on a range of classical and popular instruments through a team of visiting specialist peripatetic teachers.  A list of the current visiting teachers and their instruments can be found at the bottom of this page.

Grade Examinations

The Music Department regularly hosts and enters pupils for Associated Board and Trinity Guildhall music examinations.  To support pupils in their musical development the Department also offers weekly Grade 5 Theory music classes.

Music Scholarships

Access to the King’s School is available through a small number of music scholarships which are offered annually.  The Music Department administers the auditions each October.  For further information please contact the Director of Music via e-mail at

Associations and Professional Links

The Music Department values its links with other schools and organisations, and these support the development and enrich the experience of its musicians. 

Peterborough Cathedral

The King’s School greatly values its close links with Peterborough Cathedral.  There is close collaboration between the Cathedral music team, led by the Cathedral’s Director of Music Tansy Castledine, and The King’s School Music Department. The Cathedral Choristers rehearse in Madeley House each morning, and perform in some School concerts and services during the year.  The musical education of the Choristers is shared between the Cathedral and The King’s School.


For the last forty years the School has been twinned with the Werner-Jaeger Gymnasium in Nettetal, Germany. Every five years, in the Autumn Term, pupils in the Orchestra, Senior Concert Band and Senior Choir have travelled to Nettetal, performing a series of concerts over several days both at the school and in the local community. The King’s School has then hosted musicians from Nettetal on their reciprocal visit to England.

Out-of-Hours Music Tuition

The Music Department hosts ex-Cambridgeshire Music Service Teachers who deliver lessons to pupils from The Kings School and elsewhere after School hours at Madeley House. Lessons are available in Piano and Violin.

Peterborough Music Hub

Peterborough Music Hub runs a wide variety of opportunities including concerts, workshops and projects in which pupils can participate. The Hub also offers opportunities for teacher networking, sharing of good practice and resources, and pupil participation in the Peterborough Music School, which meets on Saturdays.

Oxford and Cambridge Universities

The King’s School Music Department has links with both Oxford (Christ Church and Merton College) and Cambridge Universities (Trinity, St. John’s and Homerton Colleges). The Director of Music attends outreach programmes, and pupils regularly visit these and other colleges to have formal interviews and informal meetings with the colleges’ Directors of Music about singing and organ scholarships.

Local Schools

The Music Department has links with other local schools such as Stamford Endowed Schools, Stamford College, St. John Fisher Academy and Leicester Grammar School.  In May 2015 the King’s School participated in the Massed Voices Concert, held at the Cathedral, combining with other local schools, and performed discrete and combined orchestral pieces with Oundle School, conducted by Howard Goodall and Quentin Thomas.

Cambridgeshire Music Partnership for Teacher Training

The King’s School Music Department believes strongly in supporting teachers who are undertaking their teacher qualifications, and has a relationship with the Cambridgeshire Music Partnership for Teacher Training. The Music Department frequently provides the opportunity for future teachers to work as part of the King’s School Music team at Madeley House to enable them to gain valuable experience in preparing lessons and delivering classroom teaching.  This ensures that they are developing the requisite skills to support their future careers.


At the discretion of the Director of Music, School Half and Full Colours can be awarded to pupils for outstanding commitment to Music.  Criteria for receiving an award include regular attendance at one or more of the Department’s extra-curricular groups for the duration of a pupil’s time at the School, pupils’ input into the annual House Music Competition and involvement in School productions. Presentations take place in whole-school assemblies, typically at the end of the Autumn and Spring Terms.

Music Awards

In addition to School Colours, the Music Department has several other prestigious awards e.g. the Michael Lamb Organ Scholarship, which is bestowed each year to the most talented Organist, as jointly agreed by the Directors of Music from The King’s School and the Peterborough Cathedral.  The scholarship recipient receives an embossed volume of organ music by J.S. Bach, and financial support for formal organ lessons.

Music Prefects

Senior pupils who are heavily involved in the musical life of the school may be invited to become Music Prefects.  This important role involves supporting the running of the Music Department through leading rehearsals, taking registers for extra-curricular ensembles, producing promotional material for concerts, cataloguing the material in the Music Library, being a point of contact for younger students who have questions about the Music Department and generally being an advocate for Music within the School.

Instrument Hire

A limited number of School instruments are available to hire for a small termly hire charge. Instruments, which may be used for instrumental practice, rehearsals and examinations, can be hired through consultation with the pupil’s peripatetic teacher and the Director of Music. 

Music Department Staff

Dr Martin Ratcliffe (MLR): Director of Music and Head of Music Department
Mr Gareth Jenkins (GJJ): Assistant Director of Music and Academic Head of Year 9

Visiting Music Teachers

Mr J Bamforth (Electric Guitar / Bass Guitar / Classical Guitar)
Mrs L Blanchford (Flute / Bassoon / Recorder)
Mrs K Blumenthal (Singing)
Mr M Bright (Percussion - Timpani & Kit)
Miss J Emmanuel (Singing / Grade 5 Theory)
Mrs F Henderson (Flute / Clarinet / Oboe)
Mr D Humphreys (Organ)
Miss C McAuliffe (Cello)
Mr J Nessfield (Trumpet / Cornet)
Mr C Parsons (Trombone / Euphonium / Tuba / French Horn)
Mr L Slack (Saxophone)
Mrs A Smith (Violin)
Mr C Torr (Piano)
Mrs J Turner (Clarinet)
Mrs N Weston (Violin / Viola)
Mr P Weston (Violin / Viola)