National Choirs

National Girls Choir

Ages: 12 - 17

A choir for ambitious singers, chosen from Scotland’s best young singing talent.

The National Girls Choir has performed as part of BBC Proms in the Park, Edinburgh International Festival and Lammermuir Festival in East Lothian. The choir has also released three commercial recordings, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and Poston’s An English Day-Book, and Richard Rodney Bennet’s Only a Singing Bird and Letters to Lindbergh. The choir meets annually around Easter time for a residential course where time is split between high-quality vocal coaching, musicianship training and full choir rehearsals with highly qualified staff who are experts in their fields. Conducted by Christopher Bell, concerts are organised at the end of the course and at other times as appropriate.



BBC Radio 3

“This youth choir is so on it – the vitality, the diction, everything that you want from a young choir is there. It’s beautiful; it’s very grown up but youthful too.”

Register Your Interest

Members of our national choirs are amongst the most promising young singers in the UK and admission to our choirs is by an annual audition.

Applications for NYCOS National Choirs 2025 open in late summer 2024. Register your interest and we’ll let you know when applications are open.


The National Girls Choir is divided into two sections suitable for all ages and stages:

National Girls Training Choir 
For girls who audition successfully, and need time for their voices to develop or the choral experience required for progression.

National Girls Training Choir

National Girls Choir
For more experienced singers who can cope with the increased musical and vocal demands of a national choir.

National Girls Choir


Members of NYCOS National Girls Choir are amongst the most promising young female singers in Scotland and admission to the Choir is by audition. We want you to have a successful audition, so we’ll be listening out for what you do well. Preparation is key; it’s never too early to start practising. After hearing you, Christopher Bell will decide whether you are ready for membership of National Girls Training Choir or National Girls Choir. Auditions are free to all.

What to sing at the audition

You should bring a song you have learned and can sing well in a classical style; your singing or class teacher should be able to advise you on suitable repertoire. We strongly suggest you do not sing songs from musicals as these often don’t show off the full vocal potential. An accompanist will be provided. In addition, applicants will be given simple exercises to sing to test the range of their voices and may be asked to sing a simple song at sight. For more information, see the Audition Guidelines.

Audition Locations

Depending on numbers, auditions may be held in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Perth. The opportunity to audition online may be available to anyone with accessibility needs or in remote locations.

Residential Course

The activities for the year all stem from the six-day residential course at Merchiston Castle School where the repertoire is learned. Members will have vocal coaching, musicianship training and full choir rehearsals with highly qualified music staff who are experts in their field.

Concerts & Engagements

The course finishes with a public concert for both sections of the Choir, where friends and family can experience the spectacular results of the work undertaken during the residential course.

The Choir will take part in exciting additional engagements, full details of which will be advised prior to audition. Members will be expected to take part in both the residential course and additional engagements.

Costs & Financial Assistance

We want you to apply, regardless of your needs, income or background. Auditions are free, all of our venues are accessible, you don’t need any specific experience and fees can be reduced up to 100% based on sibling discounts and household income.

Fees are paid in 3 instalments of £180 for National Girls Choir or 3 instalments of £155 for National Girls Training Choir. Costs are inclusive of membership, full-board accommodation, provision of music, additional engagements and all activities for the residential course.

If you have any questions or feel that anything is stopping you from applying, please contact Kenny Boyd and he would be happy to help.

If you are enthusiastic about singing, enjoy it and are prepared to work hard to sing to your full potential, we would like to hear from you.

No. Members must be available for all parts of the commitment. The team trains together and performs together – if members of the team disappear it affects our performance.

All parts of the residential course are important. At the beginning you are learning new music and settling into the course structure, and if you miss the beginning you will lose a lot, perhaps never catching up.

We prefer members to come to the course and stay for the duration, unless there is a pre-agreed extenuating circumstance. For example, in the past people have had a hospital appointment which if missed could not be re-organised for months. Each case is different so is considered individually.

For concerts, members of the National Girls Choir will be provided by NYCOS with a red shirt so that everyone looks the same. Members of the National Girls Training Choir will need to provide and wear a plain white shirt. All choir members should bring long black trousers and plain black shoes. If you receive any reduction of fees we can offer support with any uniform costs or requirements. The rest of the time you can wear what you like.

The choir meets for a 6 day residential course around Easter time. Occasionally the choir will be asked to take part in other engagements throughout the year.

The school is set in extensive grounds and, as well as providing for all our musical needs, has sports facilities. The timetable includes recreational activities supervised by our house staff. There’s also a swimming pool, TV room with videos and a quiet room for reading.

The music is in a wide variety of styles, in unison, two and three parts. Previous concerts have included music by Brahms, Fauré, Britten, Bennett and Whitacre. Music is chosen with the age range and vocal qualities of the singers in mind – some challenging, but all within their capabilities.

NYCOS National Girls Choir is directed by Christopher Bell, Artistic Director. Kenny Boyd, National Choirs Producer, leads a team of qualified and experienced house staff. NYCOS has Child Protection Guidelines to ensure the wellbeing of choir members.

Girls aged 12 – 17 born, resident/studying in Scotland, or of Scottish descent. Girls aged 16 upwards are also eligible to apply for NYCOS Training Choir. Only one audition will be required if you apply for both choirs.

This is a national choir. In order to perform at the highest possible standard it needs to recruit the best singers available each year. To keep your place in the choir you need to work at maintaining and improving your vocal and musicianship skills.


Auditions for 2024 Choirs are now closed. Auditions for 2025 choirs will be around November 2024.


8th April – 12th April 2024

12th April: Concert at St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh


Merchiston Castle School
294 Colinton Road, Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH13 0PU

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