Each September, Hereford Cathedral welcomes four music scholars to join the cathedral community. Over the next few weeks we will be meeting each of them to find out how their year is going so far. Our final interview is with Benjamin Southwick, Alto Choral Scholar...

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Benjamin Southwick, I’m 19 years old and I am currently the Alto Scholar at Hereford Cathedral.

How did your musical journey begin?

I started playing piano at 4 years old but didn’t really get into church music until I was 16 or 17. I joined the cathedral choir in Newport, which is where I am from, and I also went to Hereford Sixth Form College where I joined Academia Musica who sing regularly at the cathedral. I then started playing the organ at that point and really threw myself into church music. I was studying for my A levels and working on a university diploma in musicology at the same time which was busy but very fun.

What made you come to Hereford Cathedral?

I came to Hereford initially to study at the Sixth Form College as I was aware of the reputation of their music department and they had a good choral training scheme which was something I wanted to start doing. I then became aware of the cathedral through singing at college and singing at Three Choirs in 2018. Three Choirs was a fantastic experience as it meant I could sing with the Youth Choir which is probably one of the most treasured memories I have of Hereford.

How are you finding life in Hereford?

It’s fantastic, everyone here is so welcoming and supportive. It’s easy to get on with everybody both outside and within the Music Department. Geraint and Peter are fantastic people to have training you; getting you through the liturgy and helping you to understand how all of the services work. The lay clerks are just excellent professionals but also incredibly friendly which makes the job a lot more enjoyable.

What does a day in the life of a scholar look like?

I get up at the same time each day and study until lunchtime. After that I learn music for the rest of the day. I then come over to the Song School for the boys’ rehearsal and Evensong. I am the Choir Librarian as well as being a Choral Scholar so I then spend some time putting away the music from that day and preparing the music for the next day. Also, as part of my role as librarian, I do a lot of conservation work as we have copies of music here which are quite old - some are from the 1940s and others have Richard Lloyd’s [organist of Hereford Cathedral 1966–74 and a well-known composer of church music] handwriting on. It can be really interesting to see the different performance practices that there were between now and then.

What has been the highlight of your time here so far?

Singing the Christmas Oratorio has been my highlight so far. Two years ago, when the cathedral choir last sang it, I was studying the work for my musicology diploma and I went to the concert to hear the choir sing it. I never thought I would get to sing this work with this cathedral choir, or any cathedral choir. It was a little bit of a dream come true because it is one of my favourite works ever.

What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your time here?

I’m really looking forward to Three Choirs. I performed in the Youth Choir during 2018 but I’m looking forward to being part of the Festival Chorus and getting to sing such a vast amount of music over the space of two weeks. I can’t wait to throw myself into a completely different style of learning things and taking part in several concerts a day really builds up your professional discipline.

What are your plans for after this year?

I have a place to read music at Durham University and I am hoping to be a choral scholar at the cathedral too. After my degree I would quite like to stay in education up to PhD level because I love music and research and I would like to be able to continue that for as long as I can. My mum did a PhD and I would love to be able to get to the same level of academic achievement that she has.

Our scholars will be performing at the Choral Scholars' Mass on Thursday 19 March, 12 noon. Click here to find out more about this event and the Lent Lunch which follows the service.