Finding boy choristers and keeping them long enough to maintain the experience needed to be part of a top class choir before their voices change, is a persistent headache for cathedral choirmasters. So when a couple of gems come along, it is cause for great rejoicing.
Two probationers who have been bumped up into Salisbury Cathedral boys choir this year are, according to David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral, ‘exceptional’. Archie Beardsell comes from a very musical family and Benny Tayler has been at the school since the age of three, so is familiar with the chorister tradition.
The two new recruits took their place in the choir after going through the traditional bumping ceremony in which new choristers are welcomed to the choir by having their heads knocked (gently) on a stone in the Cathedral’s South Quire Aisle. Said David Halls: “I have no idea where the bumping ceremony came from but the hollow worn out in the stone is testament to the fact that the practice has been observed for a very long time. Aside from the curiosity factor, it’s a significant moment for any probationer…a sign that they have really joined the team, with all the hard work, fun and spirit that entails.”
Archie and Benny will play an important part in the future of the choir, as do the other promoted choristers, in particular Bishop's Chorister Jake Lacey, who becomes the head chorister and Vestry Monitor Jonathan Post, the deputy head chorister. Another important role – looking after the choir’s music library – has been allocated to William Briggs, Alex Huntbach and William Syms.
Reflecting on his current line up David Halls has reason to be grateful. If you lose just a couple of senior chorister voices in a year, you forfeit a level of experience within the choir that is irreplaceable, except with the passage of time. It’s the reason why the Cathedral works so hard to recruit boy choristers and assiduously seeks out sponsors to support them.
High Sheriff of Wiltshire Lady Gooch is one such sponsor and heads up a syndicate that supports a boy chorister. When asked why, she explained: “I remember hearing someone talking about sponsorship and saying that the girls, being the newer choir, were very well supported but that bursaries were needed for two boy choristers. I have always been passionate about providing opportunities for young people so I got together a group, some of whom sponsored the chorister for the full five years, while others made one-off donations.”
Sponsors who are able to grant a full bursary/scholarship for the five years that a chorister attends the Cathedral School get their name engraved on a medallion worn by the individual that they are supporting. Lady Gooch’s syndicate sponsors the Sherlock medallion, a name of great significance to her husband’s family.
Chorister recruitment takes place between November and late January/early February, when voice trials are held. As part of that process, on 14 November David Halls and his team will be holding their annual Be a Chorister for a Day event. Youngsters attending will rehearse and sing alongside the Cathedral Choir and hear all about life as a chorister. For more details or if you wish to attend, click here or contact Kathy Davies on 07979 378926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any other enquiries contact Marie Thomas on email@example.com or 01722 555148