History of the OUGCS

The Schola Abelis grew out of an informal group of singers who were accompanying Catholic Masses celebrated according to the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. With the number of such Masses in the Oxford area increasing, more systematic recruitment and training was felt necessary. It began functioning as a student society, the Oxford Gregorian Chant Society, in Trinity Term 2007, and was registered with the Proctors during the Long Vacation. Since then we have been attending Freshers' Fair.

We decided to adopt the name of an Oxford singer who died for the Catholic faith, Blessed Thomas Abel, who was the Chaplain and music teacher to Queen Catharine of Aragon. He carved a rebus (a visual pun) on the wall of the Beachamp Tower in the Tower of London, while awaiting execution; this can be seen to this day, and this we have incorporated into our logo.


From 2009 we started regularly to collaborate with polyphonists at some of our Masses. Early (ie, Renaissance) polyphony is closely related to Gregorian Chant and grew out of it, and it is aethetically as well as historically appropriate to sing it alongside Gregorian Chant at services. We now regularly sing alongside the Newman Consort, though most of our Masses are just chant.

There are many choirs at Fresher's Fair, but we are the only one singing habitually at Catholic services, and the only one specialising Gregorian Chant.

As well as singing at innumerable simple Masses in and around Oxford, we have sung before the Archbishop of Birmingham on the occasion of the Latin Mass Society Oxford Pilgrimage, when the Archbishop blessed a plaque in Oxford Castle, an event widely reported in the local and Catholic press and on BBC Radio Oxford. We have accompanied Masses to mark the centenary of one church and the 50th Anniversary of another. We have sung at a Wedding and at numerous Requiem Masses, and helped to mark many of the great liturgical events of the year. Our venues have included churches in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Reading and London.

Pre-history: a 'Gregorian Chant Society' was founded in Oxford in 1970, and for two years accompanied Masses in the chapel of Campion Hall, celebrated by Fr Anthony Levi (these were according to the newly revised liturgy, but in Latin). It was founded by Julio Retamal Favereau, then a DPhil student at St Anthony's; he was the Local Representative of the Latin Mass Society, as well as a member of the Latin Mass Society's Committee. He is now Emeritus Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and the President of Magnificat, a group supporting the Traditional Mass in Chile. Another member of this Gregorian Chant Society was John Rao, studying for a Doctorate in History, now at St John's University in New York and Chairman of the Roman Forum.

Other than a common interest in Chant and the Catholic Church's liturgical traditions, we can't claim any connection with this earlier group.