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Anyone have a DS in a cathedral choir?

(31 Posts)
SixtyFootDoll Mon 31-Jan-11 21:48:49

DS was auditioned at his school and invited to join our local cathedral choir ( not a school cathedral)

We went along tonight, and he enjoyed it. But I cant help feeling a bit uneasy about it.

We are not 'church' people, I am ambivelent about religion.
It is a big commitment, about 2-4 evenings a week.

DS is only 8 it seems a lot for him to take on.

Anyone with any expereinces they can share?
If he wants to do it I will support him, but we only hae so many hours in the week.

MrsWentworth Mon 31-Jan-11 21:57:20

My DS is also eight, and is a chorister at one of the big cathedrals (and at the relevant cathedral school). It is a massive commitment - far more than 2-4 evenings per week! It is indeed a lot for an eight year old to take on.

But: does he want to do it? My DS lives and breathes music. He isn't that enthusiastic about getting into his school uniform at 8am on Sundays, and was grumpy in advance of Christmas Day (though when it came to it, he was very cheerful about 'going to work' on C'mas Day).

How easy does he find school work? He will need to find homework pretty easy as fitting everything in around choir is very tight, and would be impossible with a child who struggles academically.

And how supportive do you want to be/are you able to be? I Do you have other children whose needs also have to be considered? We can do it because we are both work from home, so one of us can "do" the chorister while the other looks after the other DCs and makes sure their lives are as normal as possible (bar C'mas Day and the run-up to it, when we were all in the cathedral for most of the time!)

I am a complete and utter atheist. DH is a bit wavery. DS (the chorister) is also an out-and-out atheist. It matters not a jot. The building is beautiful; the music is fabulous; it's all part of a tradition, even if you think the God stuff is mumbo jumbo. I don't feel in the slightest bit uneasy about it. I don't believe, and other people there do. All the prayers are, to me, just words. It is not a big deal.

For the right child, it's utterly marvellous. smile

ReadingTeaLeaves Mon 31-Jan-11 21:58:24

Hello. Hope you don't mind me posting as I don't have direct experience of your situation but I sang a LOT as a kid, including in cathedral choirs (although as a girl it was never as time intensive as with boys - sexism starts young huh?!), added together with other musical stuff, by 11 I was doing music 5-6 days/week and I carried on doing church-related music until quite recently when I had DS. I have never been religious and my parents were atheists (as am I now but they never forced it on me). I still get a massive buzz out of being in a church listening to singing- but from a purely musical perspective. The church is where the vast majority of music happened until the 19th Century, so all the great classical music came from there. I think it's a fabulous musical education to give to your son and - by extension - I honestly believe that it helps with other areas of education too. I did music as a serious hobby all the way through childhood. It taught me many many things and (to be blunt) it kept me out of trouble during my teen years which definitely had a contributory factor to how I did elsewhere. I didn't study music but have been able to enjoy it as something on the side ever since.

I would love for DS to be in the position to your DS is in one day but who knows whether he'll be talented in that area.

I would completely understand if you didn't have the energy to do the running around that 2-4 evenings a week would require (I'm not sure I would!!) but I would certainly see it as a massively positive experience and one that he can build on in many other ways.

SixtyFootDoll Mon 31-Jan-11 22:09:22

The cathedral is beautiful and I sat in on the service tonight and seeing DS in the choir stalls brought a lump to my throat.

If he wants to do it I wil support him.
He has struggled in the past with his reading and I hope that this will help him and not dent his confidence.
The choir master seems lovely nd has a son of his own in the choir.

I have an older DS and both have other activities. Will have to see how it all goes.

Thankyou both for your replies

MrsWentworth Tue 01-Feb-11 08:49:09

I second everything that ReadingTL said. Good luck! smile

gymbunnynot Tue 01-Feb-11 08:59:15

Our DS is in a cathedral school and choir and none of us are even slightly religious. We all find it interesting and often discuss (normally at very random moments) things that are mentioned in services.

I do wince at their schedule, make no mistake it is a massive commitment but it brings so much that is positive into DS's life.

He is part of a team, the choir is treated as one voice, he is part of a tight group of boys across a range of ages. They do some amazing things and the musical education is second to none. His confidence is high, his reading amazing and hearing his voice develop is great.

I do get upset at Christmas but they have a ball and more chocolate than I have ever seen!

The child has to want to do it, then the family has to realise that this is what comes first. Alot of compromises are made across family life but in the end it is worth it.

maltesers Tue 01-Feb-11 09:11:21

I can fully relate to your situation. My Ds is now 10yrs and has been a chorister since he was 7.5 yrs. He started at an Abbey and then went to a Cathedral school; and then we moved to be nearer school as we were miles away. He auditioned for the cathedral choir at school but didnt get picked. I am glad now as the schedule at school with the cathedral choir is so full on . It would have been a massive huge commitment for me and my DS.
As the Abbey was so far away after moving house i reluctantly moved him as a chorister to a local church in town here. Its really friendly and less commitment. Friday rehearsal then Sunday Eucharist or Evensong, and occasionally both.
Sometimes he doesnt want to go and would rather watch TV or stay at his Dads but i keep plugging at it as he has a beautiful voice , is very musical, and its so good for his education and music training.
Its not for ever as his voice will break in about 2 yrs . So i think if your son get into a choir, encourage, juggle family schedules and keep going. Its so good for his reading practice too. Best of luck x

maltesers Tue 01-Feb-11 09:13:03

P.S> Dont worry about being an atheist, not all parents believe in god. Whats important is your son is having a brilliant musical training and learning to sing to a very high standard. !!

mummytime Tue 01-Feb-11 09:17:01

My DD is a girl chorister, she has one rehearsal, one evensong and then one "duty" on a Sunday per week. Plus concerts etc. The boy choristers do one Sunday duty and evensong 3 times, plus rehearsals for an hour before school (I think it is every weekday).
The girls are older and at a variety of schools, the boys all are at the associated Prep school.
It is a commitment (we also have singing lessons as do most girls), but if they enjoy music it is a great opportunity.

All our choristers start as probationers for about a year, with slightly reduced duties, and it gives them a chance to see if they really want to do it.

It gives huge benefits, both musically and in other ways (learning to be professional and responsible at a young age). There was some research that showed ex-choristers tended to earn more in later life (although ex-head choristers earned the least); I think this is because they have learnt or had the natural aptitude for hard work early on.

The Master of Choristers has often noticed that the younger boys sometimes have their books upside down, which makes the girls smile.

AMumInScotland Tue 01-Feb-11 09:17:42

Another one here to say - Huge commitment but it's worth it. The musical education is good, and that's someting which most people agree helps out with school work. And the sense of being part of something, working together, committed to each other is a wonderful thing to instill in a child, and stays with them afterwards.

DS was a chorister and it gave him a huge amount of self-discipline and motivation, as well as a love of music.

maltesers Tue 01-Feb-11 09:22:27

yes, its gives them self discipline as "amuminscotland" just said. Unlike scouts, or a sports team, the discipline is brilliant for them.

SixtyFootDoll Tue 01-Feb-11 13:43:35

Thanks all, we are going to ssee how it goes i think. If he is keen then I will do all I can to support him.

maltesers Wed 02-Feb-11 09:05:02

To get you enthusiastic you should google ANTHONY WAY the chorister (as was, he is grown up now !) and hear how wonderful as chorister can sound. . . . His Dad was a Prison Officer, and very ordinary folk, but because of Anthonys wonderful voice he got awarded a Scholarship to St Pauls Cathedral School. etc.

FloreatEtonia Wed 02-Feb-11 22:19:00

It sounds exactly like the same choir set up as ours so it's probably the same school as not many function in the same way. DS is thriving and it's a great lifestyle and much easier than boarding choristers at the famous cathedrals but the musical education is just as good.

gerontius Wed 02-Feb-11 23:42:47

He'll probably cope with it fine. Most of them do. And once his voice breaks you're not going to get those years back.....

Lucylu5 Fri 11-Mar-11 23:02:50

My son is a chorister at St georges chapel Windsor castle. It is his life and he loves every second of it!!!!! He has to work really hard and sings 8-10 services a week as well as concerts recordings and other events.
I was very nervous about him doing this when he asked to audition, I hate the thought that he would be boarding even though we live five minutes away!!!!!!
The experiences he has gain and the honour from doing this is amazing though and I could not of stopped him from such wonderful experiences like singing for the queen (and meeting all members of royal family) and singing in such a magnificent place.
He is 12 and his voice is going he is so upset that he will no longer be able to sing in the choir - but I know these experiences will stay with him forever.
It is a honour to be a chorister and to be a parent of a chorister.

toutlemonde Mon 14-Mar-11 17:47:20

Can't offer any advice from experience sixtyfootdoll, but so wish DS was in the same position! My (atheist) DS loves to sing, but I've never come across an opportunity for him to join a boys choir, and at 9 1/2 he's probably missed the boat for being a chorister now...

It sounds really fun and I hope you all decide to go for it

FloreatEtonia Mon 14-Mar-11 22:46:24

I don't think it is an honour to be a chorister - most boys could be one if parents were so inclined to go down this route. I also don't feel any honour in being a chorister parent because it has/is nothing to do with me and all down to my child's hard work and talent.

MollieO Mon 14-Mar-11 22:57:39

Ds wants to audition for St George's next year. It will be his choice and if he is selected I'd be immensely proud. In the same way I am proud of anything he achieves. Surely any parent would be the same so I find the post from Floreat rather odd and sad.

Bramshott Thu 17-Mar-11 12:01:49

My brother was a chorister, then a choral scholar and is now a lay clerk. I can see how it has given him a lot of enjoyment, and to be frank, a lot of opportunities, although clearly it was hard work too. Not only did he get a fantastic musical education and to travel a lot, he also probably wouldn't have gone to Cambridge if he had not gone as a choral scholar.

FloreatEtonia Fri 18-Mar-11 23:13:46

How is it odd MollieO when pride and honour mean totally different things? Your sentence does not relate to my comments at all because I was discussing the concept of honour not pride. confused

confidence Sat 19-Mar-11 21:15:44


"I don't think it is an honour to be a chorister - most boys could be one if parents were so inclined to go down this route."

I highly doubt it. As a music teacher, I'm used to the majority of young boys having quite a restricted range and an uncertain sense of pitch that takes a good few years of methodical work to get focussed.

Then just occasionlly - I mean maybe once every two years or so in my 2-form entry school - there is one that just stands out head and shoulders above the rest, with strong even tone, perfect intonation and a range that just goes up and up without effort. This appears to have nothing to do with training, class, background or anything. It's just there.

Given that there aren't really that many places for choral scholarships compared to the number of boys in the country, and given the educational incentives, I've always presumed the auditions are pretty competitive and it's these boys (or the subset of these boys who have parents who live in the right area and know about such things) who get those places. Certainly when I hear great cathedral choir performances and recordings with those soaring treble parts, I can't imagine the majority of boys I've ever known singing them!

FloreatEtonia Sat 19-Mar-11 22:07:16

The history of choral singing shows that there used to be a choir of men and boys in virtually every CofE church in the country. Of course in the last century this has dwindled to a tiny percentage mainly because of church attendance dwindling and the unpopularity of boys singing in such a manner. Therefore there must have been plenty of boys with wonderful voices. A boys voice is designed in such a way to be able to reach such high notes and of course some boys require more work than others but there are only a few boys who would be incapable of becoming a chorister.

As for competition, well it depends on the school a location. I know that the most famous choir school in England only had on average 12 applicants over each of the last 10 years and prior to that there used to be 80+ boys auditioning. Another choir school I know is struggling to reruit choristers and is relying on boys from the pre-prep showing an interest. And yet with virtually no competition it produces some of the best sounds amongst the choirs and is highly regarded within the music world.

confidence Sun 20-Mar-11 02:40:25

"The history of choral singing shows that there used to be a choir of men and boys in virtually every CofE church in the country. Of course in the last century this has dwindled to a tiny percentage mainly because of church attendance dwindling and the unpopularity of boys singing in such a manner. Therefore there must have been plenty of boys with wonderful voices."

That's not a logical conclusion at all.

The fact that virtually every church HAD a choir says nothing about the level of quality that it was. It's perfectly possible that most of those boys wouldn't have passed the audition to a modern cathedral choir scholarship.

I would also dispute that "a boy's voice is designed in such a way to be able to reach such high notes". All voices are different - some are naturally higher than others, some are naturally "freer" than others. Of course training can do a lot, but it can't negate these differences and it can't do that much before the age of about 8 when most boys embark on these scholarships. Whatever difference exists at THAT point in a child's life is much more likely to be due to nature, not nurture.

I will however bow to your superior knowledge re competitiveness as it's not a field I'm personally involved in or know about first hand.

I'm just pissed off about the inherent sexism of it as my 5-year-old daughter can already sight read simple tunes and sings like a goddess!

FloreatEtonia Sun 20-Mar-11 08:17:47

Girls will have their time and it lasts longer than a boys i.e. Forever!

It is not sexist as a Properly trained boys voice produces a sound far more beautiful than a girls voice.

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