On Sunday 6 December, the choristers at Salisbury Cathedral staged a takeover, with one chorister becoming bishop for the day, and others launching a virtual Cathedral tour with the help of TV star and voice of Dangermouse, Alexander Armstrong.
In a tradition that goes back centuries, 13-year-old Sebastian Kunzer was installed as this year’s Chorister Bishop during Evensong yesterday at the Cathedral, but this year was a bit different. For the first time since the special service was revived in the 1980s, the candidate for the role came recommended by fellow choristers – the Choristers’ Bishop, if you like.
Pictured: The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of salisbury, Sebastian Kunzer, Chorister Bishop and The Very revd Nicholas papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury. Photo by Ash Mills.
Usually candidates are chosen by the Director of Music, David Halls, consulting with colleagues in the Cathedral Music Team and Salisbury Cathedral School, but this year they asked each chorister to recommend a name and explain their choice. The results were evaluated by staff and the appointment made. Sebastian emerged as a clear favourite, with peers choosing him because of his leadership qualities and kindness.
Director of Music, David Halls said:
“He’s a really nice boy. Kind, thoughtful, hardworking and a talented singer. He would have been my choice, if it had been my choice to make this year. All credit to his fellow choristers because they have selected very wisely in my opinion.”
Unlike his medieval counterparts, Sebastian was only a bishop for a day. In medieval times the boy bishops held office for three weeks, from St Nicholas Day (6 December this year), until Holy Innocents Day (28 December this year), empowered to make decisions on the disposal of benefices (or church appointments) that fell vacant within this period and presiding over all services. The practice continued until Henry VIII put a stop to it, declaring it a distraction from proper church business.
The other chorister takeover is virtual. During lockdown a small group of choristers have been filming behind the scenes with the Cathedral’s social Marketing Officer, Shane Brennan, and Chorister Tutor Jake Reynolds, for a virtual Chorister’s tour of Salisbury Cathedral. The youngsters are sharing the role of host with Alexander Armstrong, TV and radio presenter – and a former chorister himself.
The reason behind the creation of A Chorister’s Tour is that the event which traditionally kicks off the annual chorister recruitment season, Be a Chorister for a Day, was cancelled due to Covid. Faced with a recruitment challenge it was decided that if children couldn’t come in to meet the choristers, then the choristers (and Alexander Armstrong) would have to take the Cathedral to the kids. The result is a tour of the weird, funny and historic life of a chorister at the Cathedral and the Cathedral school.
How does the tour work?
It works much like our virtual Art tour. Markers take you to different points in the Cathedral where Alexander Armstrong, and the Salisbury Choristers take you behind the scenes or share stories from history, like ‘how the flat mouse got to be in a Latin text book in the Library’, or information about the world’s oldest clock, the dipstick that measures the water under the Cathedral floor and the Bumping Stone which transforms probationers into full choristers. Aimed at children in years 3 and 4, it’s a chance to learn fascinating facts, hear gruesome stories and get to grips with quirky traditions as they learn about life as a chorister through the ages.
The Cathedral are hoping that by sharing the amazing building and letting youngsters have a peep behind the scenes it will encourage children to think about exploring life as a chorister. With ten scholarships available – five for girls, five for boys – it's a golden opportunity for youngsters who love to sing to get in touch and request a try out.
To find out more contact Kathy Davies on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07979 378926