Chichester Cathedral choristers’ open afternoon

Youngsters are being invited to join the Chichester Cathedral choral tradition dating back centuries.

Charles Harrison, organist and master of the choristers, is organising a chorister open afternoon at the Cathedral on Saturday, October 17 at 2pm.

Charles Harrison.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141040-1 SUS-150930-103409003

Charles Harrison.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141040-1 SUS-150930-103409003

He is promising an informal event suitable for boys in years two and three and for parents of younger children who would like to hear more about life as a chorister.

“This gives boys and their parents a taste of the chorister life. They can come up to the medieval song school and see the choir rehearsing. They will be able to join in. There will be some games and there will also be some singing with the visitors. We will finish with a service, a scaled-down version of chorale Evensong. The whole idea is to make it all very accessible to our young visitors.”

As Charles says, the chorister’s life is rich, full and enjoyable: “It offers so much. For a musical child, it gives them the experience of being a professional musician from a really early age. It introduces them to the extraordinary heritage of music that we sing and brings them into contact with some beautiful texts. The quality of the language they are exposed to is really wonderfully high, and they are really lucky to be part of it all.

“And at the same time the sense of community among the choristers is really strong. They are living together, and they are working together, and they are such a big part of a great corporate effort. The feeling of participating in this endeavour that has been going on for hundreds of years is very strong, and it is a wonderful feeling, an unbroken tradition, but at the same time things move on. Choristers are encouraged to take part in a wide variety of other activities as well. They have to be very good organisers of their time because they are so busy, but we do have boys with a wide variety of other interests. We try to make sure they have all sorts of different opportunities.”

Charles accepts it could perhaps be a little daunting, but he stresses the welcome will be a friendly one and the atmosphere is strongly supportive: “It certainly might be unfamiliar to young children to start with, but once they are in the song school with all the choristers, they will have a great time with a friendly atmosphere and lots of support.

“We can audition and accept new choristers during the course of the year, but for the younger ones (years two and three), it is most likely a question of thinking of joining us in a years’ time. If we spot something at this stage, if we see potential and if they and their parents are keen, we can advise them on what they might like to do over the coming year to develop that potential. The idea is really about setting up the interest. There may be some people in years three or four that are immediately besotted with joining and want to do so as soon as possible, but for the younger ones it is more likely a case of finding out about something they can bear in mind for later.

“The cathedral pays half the fees for all the choristers, and we have funds and access to external charities that can help top up where necessary. Our aspiration is that we would never turn anyone away on financial grounds.”

The cathedral needs to get an idea of numbers attending in advance and so is asking people to book by contacting Lesa Burchell at the Prebendal School on 01243 520970. Charles stresses late bookings will certainly be accepted.

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