Stephen and his brother were choristers at Worcester Cathedral; Stephen has a daughter who was recently Master's Chorister in St Catharine's College Girls' Choir in Cambridge and another who is a chorister at York Minster. He believes passionately that being a chorister gives a child a wonderful start in life.
We are fortunate in the UK to have many great choral foundations and children can benefit enormously from singing in these fine choirs and in the many wonderful cathedrals, chapels and churches which this country boasts.
The skills that choristers learn give them huge benefits going forward, and among the ranks of our country’s finest musicians, sportsmen, broadcasters and politicians are those who once were choristers and who attribute their success to the work ethic they learned as children. But it is so much more than that:
• have an immense sense of pride in what they do
• make lasting friendships
• have a training which gives them an unmatchable grounding
in music which stands them in good stead for an enjoyment
of music-making at amateur or professional level for the rest of their lives
• are exposed not only to a great deal of marvellous music but to wonderful words and poetry as well
• learn to be confident
• develop an ability to organise their time more efficiently than most children of their age, which means that they cope well with life in their secondary schools and, indeed, throughout their subsequent careers
"What you learn by being a chorister isn’t just about hitting the right notes bang in the middle; it’s about deportment;
it’s about how to breathe; it’s about how to get on with your fellow human beings."
Former choristers who play a part in national life in realms other than music include Alexander Armstrong (St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh), Simon Russell Beale (St Paul's Cathedral), Oz Clarke (Canterbury), Alistair Cook (Westminster Abbey), David Lammy (Peterborough), Olly Smith (King's) and Jon Snow (Winchester).
" I owe my entire career to my experience as a chorister. It was where I learnt to perform, where I learnt to use the full range of my voice; where I learnt to listen, where I learnt to write comedy, where I learnt to carry a pencil at all times – but most importantly it was where I learnt the wonderful truth that something exceptional, something as beautiful as anything anywhere, can be created just by you and your friends."
" I was in and out of King's Chapel every day of my life and it’s such a privilege to have been here, been part of the history of this amazing building. It’s probably the ultimate place to be a chorister. I had the most incredible time and it changed my life, no doubt about it. The incredible self discipline and the incredible exposure to music – when you think of all the things we would sing, right from Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb to the old psalm chants. An extraordinary education.....
Would you recommend being a choirboy?
"Yes. Hands down I would. It changes your whole life and it’s a huge, enormous change, but I have absolutely no regrets. I loved every minute of it."
MY ENTIRE CAREER TO MY EXPERIENCE AS A CHORISTER."
• nearly all choristers take up music awards (scholarships/exhibitions) at their chosen schools when at 13+. A number get academic scholarships as well.
• all choristers enjoy all the benefits of a well-rounded education, taking a full part as pupils at one of the best prep schools in the country, and participating in team sports, including matches against other schools.
• They all learn two instruments, so their musical education extends beyond the voice, and many go on to play their instruments to the highest standards. (Former King's choristers include top instrumental soloists, such as Simon Preston, Roy Goodman, Andrew Marriner and Guy Johnston, as well as composers such as Bob Chilcott.)
• they travel all over the world and perform in prestigious venues, such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Sydney Opera House
• many aspire to return to King’s as choral scholars when they are 18 – which can only mean that they had a good time in the Choir from the ages of 8-13!
"King’s Choristers have a wonderful start to life. They are educated at King’s College School in Cambridge, and have the opportunity to perform with some of the finest soloists and orchestras.
When I audition boys, I am looking for potential. Enthusiasm and a love of singing are far more important in the early stages than a trained voice. The boys who are successful at audition spend one or two years training with the Choir, before they become full choristers (when they are given their famous top hats).
The full choristers are involved in all the activities of the choir. They sing in King’s College Chapel during the University terms, and then make recordings, perform in concerts, take part in TV and Radio broadcasts and go on tour at Easter or during the summer. Despite their busy schedule, they still find time for other pursuits, including sport and drama.
When the boys eventually leave the Choir at the end of Year 8, the majority go on to win major music scholarships to leading schools. Most recently boys have gone to Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Ipswich School, King’s School Canterbury, Oundle, The Perse, Tonbridge and Uppingham.
At King’s we believe that the chorister experience should be available to everyone, regardless of financial background. The choristers’ fees are generously subsidised by means of a bursary from King’s College and we can help to identify further support for families that need it.
If you know of someone who might be interested in becoming a chorister at King's, please contact Sarah Williams by email to find out more (firstname.lastname@example.org).