Life as a Chorister: Frequently Asked Questions

Our Director of Music, Geraint Bowen, has put together the below FAQs for anyone who is interested in attending the Chorister Open Morning on Saturday 7 March.

What are the benefits of being a chorister?

First and foremost is the opportunity to enjoy singing beautiful music each day in the glorious surroundings of Hereford Cathedral, as part of a dedicated team who love what they do. Additionally, the skills that choristers learn early in life about teamwork, good time-management and working to deadlines are highly transferable and stand them in very good stead whatever they do later in life.

Does my son have to be a brilliant singer to get a place?

No. What we're looking for at the audition is potential, enthusiasm for singing and a willingness to work hard as part of a team. The results that you’ll hear come from the boys’ hard work and the training that they receive.

What happens at the open morning?

The open morning begins with a short open rehearsal of the current choristers, followed by brief presentations from key cathedral and school staff. The visiting boys then take part in a workshop with some of the choristers, during which they’ll learn a song which they will sing in the cathedral at the end of the morning. There are no formal auditions at the open morning, but if you wish to take that process further you can arrange this with Geraint Bowen at the end.

What happens next if my son is interested in becoming a chorister?

We will be arranging a voice trial later in the spring for the three or four places that we expect to have in September 2020. This is a way of exploring each boy’s musical and vocal potential: no experience is necessary and Geraint Bowen will talk about what’s involved at the open morning.

What are the singing hours?

During term time the boys rehearse and sing Evensong each day from Monday to Saturday (excluding Wednesday, which is free of any choir commitments), and usually sing three services on Sundays. The choir also sings in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter, and some of the older boys take part in the Three Choirs Festival in late July.

If the boys spend all this time singing, then I suppose taking part in much sport is out of the question?

The cathedral schools organise as many fixtures as possible so that they don't clash with chorister duties. Many of our present and former choristers are excellent rugby players, athletes and cricketers. The former England cricket captain, Sir Alastair Cook, was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, so it can be done!

What are the financial benefits of a choristership?

The cathedral pays 50% of a chorister’s school fees while he is a chorister. Means-tested funding to cover the remaining 50% is available. Assuming they stay until their voice changes, the boys then receive a post-chorister scholarship from the cathedral and Hereford Cathedral School of 30% of their school fees, up to the end of Year 11. Means-tested funding to cover the remaining 70% is available.

Do the boys and their families have to be religious to sing in the cathedral choir?

No. The role of the chorister is to lead the worship for other people and that involves an appropriately respectful attitude to what is going on around him. The primary focus of the training is musical; however, if the boys have, or develop, a Christian faith, or just want to ask questions then there are many people to help. Preparation for Confirmation is offered if desired.

Does the choir go on tour?

The choir has visited the USA six times since 2002, and toured South Africa in 2010. In 2018 the choir took part in a concert at Buckingham Palace in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, and also visited Rome, where it sang at a Papal Mass in St Peter’s Square, as well as taking part in a concert in the Sistine Chapel. Last year the choir was privileged to take part in the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Landings in Normandy which was broadcast live on television worldwide, and in December gave a concert in Bologna at the invitation of the British Embassy in Rome.

What do the families think about chorister life?

‘My son has always loved music, and singing in the choir is giving him an amazing musical training of a standard not possible otherwise. He feels part of something special and has made a good set of close friends’.

‘My son loves singing every day, the trips, the big occasions, being part of a tightly-knit and cared-for group of boys, having a real role in a community/school. He's been in the choir for several years now and has only twice complained about having to get up early.’

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the cathedral’s Director of Music, Geraint Bowen, on 01432 374238 or [email protected]. For more information on the Open Morning please click here