Life as a chorister
There was one ordeal I was spared as a choir boy – different choir school - and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Actually I would, for what finer achievement could there than to be chosen to sing solo the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge on Christmas Eve?
Broadcast worldwide, it is an event which for many in the UK signals the real start of Christmas. Anyone who has joined the night-long queue for tickets outside the chapel and found themselves chatting through the night with people from around the world are suddenly, wonderfully, appraised of its global significance.
This is an extreme example of what child choristers take for granted. Musical professionalism and the sublimation of awe, however auspicious the surroundings, are built on a dedication to musical rigour.
In my case, as a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School (1988 -1990), that rigour included services six days a week, evensong on weekdays and Saturdays, and three services on a Sunday. (As choristers we were expected to work up to – and including- Christmas Day, so festivities for me started Boxing Day.)
Each morning would start with an evensong rehearsal, followed by normal(ish) schooling, a further rehearsal (after school) and then the service itself. Afterwards, it was time for homework and time to practise our respective instruments, in my case piano and violin.
Throw into the mix various demands to sing for the Royals, the Lord Mayor’s show, recordings and the odd TV appearance and you can see our time was not our own.
When I left St Paul’s Cathedral Choir School (boarding was not for me), I became a chorister at Guildford Cathedral where the schedule was almost identical. Endless rehearsal in pursuit of excellence while in the outside world my contemporaries enjoyed raucous bike rides, after school trips to the cinema and a plethora of other activities enjoyed by late pre-teens and early teenagers.
I don’t regret a moment of my life as a chorister. There were significant rewards that outshone all I had missed. I had a part in the making of commercial recordings at Guildford Cathedral – Psalms of David Vol 6: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation (released in 1992 by Priory Records ). It’s a fine recording, and one I love listening to (and not just because I’m in it!).
I featured as the treble soloist in Allegri’s Miserere as well as the Kyrie from Faure’s Messe Basse and the descant part in Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus in the second – Crucifixus -which was released in 1993 by Herald label.
You can still buy both recordings; I do not profit one penny from them!
And now I have launched www.bespokeclassicalmusic.com to enable others to allow music to mark their lives as it has mine. I can write choral works for you to celebrate every occasion, works based on a sound musical background where discipline, nous and excellence are the perquisites. One click on the website link is all it will take to start you on your musical adventure.