Chorister life during lockdown

Thursday 2 July

The life of a Cathedral chorister in term time is normally a busy schedule of purposeful activity. When lockdown began, everything had to be reinvented as Director of Music, Tansy Castledine, explains.

The life of a Cathedral Chorister is very distinctive and special. Singing frames almost every day of the week, with choir sessions before and after school. Singing at the Cathedral services is the culmination of this intense daily training and the years of musical and vocal experience that a chorister gains through being in the Cathedral Choir.

Throughout lockdown, the children have undertaken a mixture of different styles of sessions which have enabled them to continue developing their vocal and technical skills, as well as their enthusiasm for the way in which music enhances our lives. Some of these sessions have been as a whole choir, some in smaller groups, and some have been individual sessions. In combination with daily singing practice, this has enabled chorister training to continue with a similar presence in chorister lives as before, but without the same outcomes for now.

Perhaps one of the key differences with virtual choir is just how focused singing is on individual chorister development and achievement, rather than the corporate music-making, and gift to others. To take that into account, every child has had an individualised musical learning plan and they have all worked incredibly hard at preparing for, and managing their sessions. With the support of their parents they have continued to learn a wealth of musical repertoire. In addition to the daily core music that they would study, prepare for, and expand, they have also studied solo song repertoire which has incorporated all genres of music. During sessions we have used the chat feature for keeping notes of our progress so that the choristers can continue to build their bank of knowledge and share their congratulations and enthusiasm for each other’s contributions throughout the sessions.

Along the chorister’s lockdown journey there have also been non-musical things happening and it’s been wonderful to see the children in their wider contexts. Each week in the full choir session we have had a different colour dress codes to reflect different aspects of the world around us, and we have had different musical themes and composers of the week too which has helped broaden musical horizons.

There have been competitions and activities such as making a model of the Cathedral, learning to recite all 66 books of the Bible, drawing pictures, sharing other talents and skills that they’ve been developing, introducing us to family pets, new cooking recipes, books, and dance routines! The choristers have all undertaken audio recordings and several have also had the opportunity to take part in some video recordings and it’s been wonderful to see the resilience that they all have shown towards the high standards in these projects. See photo gallery below.

We are immensely fortunate to have 50 highly committed and dedicated choristers here at Peterborough Cathedral. I feel truly humbled at the amount of energy, courage, conviction, enthusiasm, independence, and aspiration that has been invested by each chorister into continuing with choir and their singing, in the absence of being able to meet and rehearse in person.

On Sunday 5th July, the morning service will celebrate the choir and musical tradition of the Cathedral as we conclude our choir term. It’s very clear that as always, choir activities will be missed hugely as we take our summer break, but perhaps even more so this year, as during lockdown it has been such a defining feature of “lockdown life”, maintaining a known for the children and being an aspect of great positivity and activity for our choristers during this time.

It’s been lovely to hear the choristers’ enthusiasm for when we can come back and sing together in person:

“I can’t wait to get to sing this solo.”
“When can we sing together again?”
“That will sound so good in the building.”
“Can we learn another new piece by that composer?”

Parents and wider families further afield have also really valued that the artistic aspiration, determination and success has remained, as they have taken part in so many different choir projects, some of which have been shared more widely via the web.  

Be a chorister for a day

The Cathedral Choir offers 9 chorister places each year to children in Year 2 in preparation for starting in the choir in Year 3. Each year, the “Be a chorister for a day” event draws high numbers of children who would like to see whether the Cathedral Choir musical education experience is for them and find out more about auditioning for the choir. We encourage you to let potential choristers know about this unique opportunity to be a part of a most special aspect of the country’s choral and artistic heritage. To book a place on the 2020 “Be a chorister for a day” event, which takes place on 3rd October, or to find out more about being in the choir, please contact: music@peterborough-cathedral.org.uk

Photo gallery

The photos below show some of the non-singing activities the choristers have been up to at home, including gardening, reading, creating a space game, baking, caring for chickens and dogs, and making a wonderfully detailed Lego cathedral (spot the £100 note in the red collection plate!)

Chorister with plantsChorister with bookChorister with space game

chorister with chickensChorister with musical biscuitsLego Cathedral made by a chorister

Inside the Lego cathedralThe Lego congregation

Chorister's dogsArchie, the Music Department dog

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