When Matthew Arnold called Oxford the “city of dreaming spires,” he wasn’t just talking about the skyline (breathtaking as it is). The seat of the oldest university in the English-speaking world bathes in a sort of other-worldly timelessness: remnants of the walls that protected the city during the Middle Ages now lie overrun with flora, cobblestone walkways seem to turn round upon themselves, and an underground river (reportedly once punted by Lawrence of Arabia) surges beneath the cottage once occupied by W.H. Auden (adjacent to the dining hall used in the Harry Potter movies). Bells from ancient church towers mix with college choirs, and the architecture of Christopher Wren casts shadows over hidden and haunted pubs. It is the birthplace of Medieval kings (Richard the Lionheart and King John, of Robin Hood fame), and the alma mater of the most significant modern politicians (Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton, to name but two). The rational and scientific mind brushes against the most fantastic of imaginations: the microscope and Bilbo Baggins were both born here, and the human cell was discovered just meters away from the tree beneath which Alice fell asleep, precipitating her sojourn to Wonderland. The mighty Thames of London is here the enchanted River Isis, and on its banks, ruined, ivy-laden convent walls, with accents of thistle-purple, stand opposite historic inns with peacocks roaming the grounds.
MAP students have access to all these Oxford marvels, as well as to some of the most brilliant teachers at the University Music Faculty (and Blackwell’s Music Shop!). The Bodleian Library holds among the most significant manuscripts in music (including many of Mendelssohn’s originals – note: access to manuscripts must be granted in advance), and the Holywell Room, the oldest public music hall in the world, has hosted the likes of Josef Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Oxford has also been one of the most important gardens of English music – from Hubert Parry and George Butterworth, to Edmund Rubbra and Robert Saxton (who often presents a lecture to MAP students).
Oxford is a place you’ll not soon forget, and its location offers easy access to some of the most famous places and landmarks in England: Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds, Salisbury Cathedral, and London (just a one-hour train ride away).