Who can become a chorister?
In April or May each year, we look for boys and girls in Year 3 who can sing in tune, enjoy singing, have a bright and positive attitude, and are capable of sustaining a commitment to the choir. Auditions of those recommended for a place take place in June. This year’s auditions are on 9 June. Booking is essential. Places are normally offered to two boys and two girls, who begin to sing with the choir occasionally during the summer term, and then full time from the start of year 4. Occasional vacancies are available in years 5 or 6, so it is worth enquiring if you are new to the area and your son or daughter have been in a church choir elsewhere.
What musical training is provided?
As well as the ongoing musical and vocal training which take place during the normal round of choir practices, choristers are given specialist training in small groups or individually, both at school and at the cathedral. They are taught a wide repertoire of music from across several centuries and equipped with the skills to perform it to a professional standard. Being a chorister is probably the only occupation in which a child can work alongside adults at such a high level, and it gives them an insight into achieving musical excellence. In addition, one of the aims of the Brecon Cathedral Choir Trust is to help with the additional cost of music lessons for choristers who wish to learn an instrument. This is a unique feature of the music provision at Brecon.
What are the other benefits of being a chorister?
As well as the obvious musical and educational benefits, choristers learn many life skills including self-discipline, resilience, humility, a sense of responsibility and teamwork. They develop sensitivity to heritage and tradition and through their singing become part of the Christian witness of Brecon Cathedral. People in all walks of life have benefited from being a chorister between the ages of 8 and 14, including famous politicians, entrepreneurs, actors, newspaper editors and many others. In the normal course of cathedral services, the cathedral choir sings a wide range of some of the finest, most interesting and rewarding music written from the fifteenth century to the present day, and this experience is one that stays with choristers throughout their lives.
There are usually no choir duties on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, most choristers come to the Cathedral straight after school. They have a chance to relax and play games together or do some homework before having refreshments such as toast and drinks. Some choristers prefer to go home after school and to come to the Cathedral for the start of choir practice at 4.00 pm in the Choir Room. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the choristers are collected by their parents from the Choir Room at 5.15 pm. Many choristers who play instruments take part in South Powys Youth Music on Wednesdays after choir, and a free bus is organised for them from the Cathedral. On Fridays, however, they are joined by the Cathedral Lay Clerks (the adults who sing alto, tenor and bass in the cathedral choir); they rehearse together and then sing choral evensong in the Cathedral at 6.00 pm. The choristers are then collected by their parents at 6.40 pm.
Saturday is normally a free day for the choir.
On Sundays, the choristers rehearse in the Choir Room at 10.00 am, and sing at the main Cathedral service at 11.00 am (normally a Eucharist), which usually ends at about 12.10pm. They return to the Cathedral to rehearse at 2.30 pm before singing evensong at 3.30 pm, which finishes at around 4.20 pm. At all times, choristers are properly supervised and looked after in accordance with the Church in Wales Provincial Safeguarding Policy.
The above describes a typical week for a chorister. The choristers also take part in occasional special events such as weddings, concerts, recordings, broadcasts, visits to sing in local churches and tours further afield. Each term, parents are provided with a complete list of rehearsals, services and other events for the following term (subject to last minute change)
Choir terms and holiday periods
As Christmas and Easter are very important and busy times for the cathedral, the choristers are involved in a number of extra services and events up to and including Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. However, they always have one full week free from choir duties during the Easter holidays, and are free from the end of the morning Eucharist on Christmas Day until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. They do not normally sing during the school summer holidays. During each half-term break, the choristers are free of cathedral duties until the final Sunday (i.e. the day before they go back to school).
Occasionally a choir tour is organised during one of the holiday periods – in the past, the choir has toured Italy, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the USA in addition to undertaking a number of tours within the UK. Parents are notified about tour plans well in advance so that they can arrange their holidays accordingly.
How long do choristers remain in the choir?
Choristers normally remain in the cathedral choir until the end of year 8. Boy choristers normally leave when their voices change, if this happens before the end of year 8.
What provision is made for choristers when they leave the choir?
There are many ways in which choristers can continue to be involved in the life of the cathedral, if they wish to do so. Some go on to be servers at cathedral services. Others join the Cathedral Consort, a small chamber choir which practises on Tuesday evenings and sings evensong each Thursday. Depending on how a particular chorister's voice develops, there may be the possibility of joining the cathedral choir again as an alto, tenor or bass. They are known as Choral Scholars, and afford the same benefits as the choristers; thanks to the foresight of the Dean and Chapter (the governing body of the Cathedral) in establishing the Brecon Cathedral Choir Trust, the cathedral choir is able to support choristers and choral scholars through their years in the choir, by paying for singing and instrumental tuition. If you would like your son or daughter to be part of this, or would simply like more information, contact the Director of Music, Stephen Power.
Telephone: 01874 624837
A relatively new feature here at the Cathedral is to have an annual gathering of former choristers and lay clerks to share memories and experiences during and following their time in the choir, where often, the strongest of life-long friendships are formed.
Telephone: 01874 624837