Exeter Cathedral and Exeter Cathedral School are inviting applications from girls and boys who are currently in years three or four of school for a potentially life-changing opportunity to join the Choristers of Exeter Cathedral.
Candidates will be asked to attend Chorister Voice Trials, which this year will be held with special measures in place to meet coronavirus safety requirements. Timothy Noon, Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral wants to attract as many applicants as possible:
“After such a difficult year, particularly for school pupils, we want as many children as possible to be able to explore this very special opportunity to become a Chorister with Exeter Cathedral and Exeter Cathedral School. We’re welcoming applications from all girls and boys who are currently in years three or four at school.”
“At this stage, we’re not expecting a fully developed singing voice; the most important things we’ll be looking for are simply a love of music, a musical ear and the potential to develop.”
For many children, such as Theo – now a year eight Chorister – the experience of singing at Exeter Cathedral can bring benefits across all areas of life:
“Being a Chorister has given me huge pleasure because of the joy the Choir singing brings to other people; through services, concerts and online recordings.”
“The confidence I have gained through singing in the Choir has filtered into other areas of my life both academically and personally.”
However, candidates will need to be prepared for a rigorous schedule of training – typically requiring over 20 hours of rehearsals and performances over six days, every week. It’s one of the reasons why all of Exeter Cathedral’s Choristers attend Exeter Cathedral School, an independent prep school situated just across the road. Headmaster James Featherstone explains:
“Exeter Cathedral School has played an integral role in the musical life of the Cathedral for over 900 years, so we’re well versed in helping our Chorister pupils balance their singing commitments with throwing themselves into the broader life of the School. They all enjoy our full academic timetable, our pastoral and extra-curricular opportunities, as well as our Sports & Wellbeing Programme.”
“All of our Choristers automatically receive a place at Exeter Cathedral School, along with a Cathedral Scholarship which covers 25% of the tuition fee, as well as free tuition on one instrument. There’s also additional financial support available from Exeter Cathedral and a number of trusts, for qualifying families and carers.”
“In recent years, no Chorister has been prevented from joining us because of financial circumstances – that’s really important to us. And being a Cathedral Chorister can certainly help when it comes to music scholarships in secondary education too: last year, 84% of our leavers were awarded a scholarship or exhibition to their chosen senior school.”
The longstanding relationship between Cathedral and School is something that Canon Precentor, The Revd Canon James Mustard, believes lies at the very heart of life at Exeter Cathedral:
“The Cathedral without music is unthinkable. Our Choristers are at the centre of our music and make a hugely important contribution to our worship too.”
“In the last nine centuries, choral singing at the Cathedral has only been stopped for two historical events: the English Civil War and then last year’s coronavirus lockdown.”
It is a history of commitment and interdependence that has made Exeter Cathedral a renowned centre of excellence for choral music. Described by the radio station Classic FM as “one of the country’s finest,” outside of coronavirus restrictions Exeter Cathedral Choir typically maintains a busy programme of tours, concerts, recordings and radio broadcasts.
The deadline for applications to become a Choral Scholar is 12 February, with Voice Trials scheduled for 27 February.