Six trainee choristers, or probationers, have been admitted as full choristers to Salisbury Cathedral’s renowned choir. The youngsters were welcomed during a specially choreographed, Covid-safe ceremony after Evensong at the end of last week.
The ‘bumping’ tradition for admitting choristers went ahead this year, with the chorister tutors for each choir - Jake Reynolds (boys) and Emily O’Donnell (girls) - doing the honours along with Salisbury Cathedral School’s Head Master Clive Marriott. All three staff wore masks.
The girls were ‘bumped’ as usual in the Trinity Chapel, using a giant prayer book, and the boys had their heads knocked on the ancient bumping stone in the South Quire Aisle. No-one knows where the boys bumping tradition comes from, or how long it has been part of chorister admission, but when the girls choir was formed at the Cathedral in 1991, it was determined to have its own version – hence the ceremony with the enormous prayer book, in which all the names of girl choristers are written.
It has been a challenging introduction to chorister life for these youngsters. Normally probationers spend time sitting in, reading the music but not singing, and attending rehearsals. All of that has been disrupted because for a significant part of the year the choir activities have been conducted by zoom.
David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral said:
“In some ways these children have been very lucky. The Cathedral School did an excellent job of getting online lessons up and running and teaching remotely during the first lockdown. However, Zoom really doesn’t work for chorister rehearsals and they have lost out to some extent, musically. It was great for team building though, and did maintain the camaraderie of the choir when they were remote.”
Having an instinct for music helps when it comes to being selected for the Cathedral choir but even if you have a head start like Amelia Parker, who is the daughter of two singing teachers, what really matters is your attitude and your singing voice.
You don’t have to arrive able to play an instrument either. That’s something you can start at the Cathedral School, and there’s lots of choice. New chorister Luke, who lives in Salisbury, is learning the cornet, whilst Alexander from Winchester is a budding saxophonist.
The Cathedral choir is a familiar feature in Harry Mills’ life, and not just because of the singing. He is the son of the Cathedral’s regular photographer, Ash Mills, often to be seen photographing services including the Evensong at which Harry was admitted as a full chorister. Harry’s mother teaches flute locally, and Harry is learning to play the cello.
George Gostick is also a string player; he’s learning the violin. Like Amelia, George comes from a singing family. His father directs and conducts a number of choirs including the Medici Choir in London, The Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir and the Portsmouth Choral Union, and his mother is a singer and teacher.
If you want to know more about life as a Cathedral chorister, or know a youngster with a talent for singing and a good ear, why not join the Cathedral’s virtual Chorister’s Tour fronted by Alexander Armstrong and some of the current Cathedral choristers:
Dates may change due to the pandemic but Girls' Voice Trials for Years 3 and 4 are currently scheduled to take place on Saturday 16 January 2021 and Boys' Voice Trials for Years 3 and 4 on Saturday 6 February 2021.
Application forms can be downloaded via the website here