Malcolm Gill is the Chairman of the Chichester Cathedral Friends. For 80 years the Friends have contributed to the life and work of this living place of worship. This support extends to the Cathedral’s choir.
As we announce our upcoming Chorister Open Day, Malcolm has asked Organist & Master of the Choristers Charles Harrison to reflect upon the role of the choir and the journey of a new Chorister. Below is Part I of Charles’ reflection.
The Choir’s job is to adorn and inform the Cathedral’s worship, heightening moments of praise, deepening those of prayerful meditation. At its best, a cathedral choir is not a point of focus in itself, but rather a lens through which deeper wonders can be appreciated.
Even to those who have worked with Choristers for many years, it can seem near miraculous that an 8-year-old child with little musical experience can be transformed, in 3 or 4 years, into a professional musician who can sing complicated music at sight, perform a solo to a full cathedral at Christmas, and cope with German or Latin texts almost as easily as those in English.
Accepting a Chorister place at Chichester is much more than joining a club or signing up for a regular activity. All the Choristers are educated at The Prebendal School and board for a minimum of 4 nights each week. The choir has duties on Saturdays and Sundays, and at the major Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, which fall during school holidays. The commitment, therefore, is one for the whole family, not only the Chorister.
The newest recruits to the choir are known as ‘probationers’ and begin their training when they are 7 or 8 years old. Wearing a cassock and collar (but not yet the surplice that is reserved for full Choristers) they attend some services, and receive intensive tuition in vocal technique, musical notation, and the structure of Anglican services. Their earliest contributions might include singing the Lord’s Prayer on a single note, saying the Creed and joining in with a hymn.
The Chichester Cathedral Friends are proud to sponsor an annual choral scholarship. Following the announcement that from the start of the next academic year in September 2022, girls as well as boys will be able to audition for places in the choir, we look forward to continuing this support.
Charles Harrison, Organist & Master of the Choristers & Malcolm Gill, Chairman of the Chichester Cathedral