My Experience as a Chorister in Birmingham Cathedral by Ben Thompson
I have been part of the Birmingham cathedral choir from April 2010 until July 2016. Below I will be telling you about my journey through the choir including my role as head chorister, the great trips I have been on with the choir and also what I have obtained from being a member of the community in the cathedral.
I started attending the choir in 2010 when the director of music Canon Marcus Huxley came to my primary school looking for children to audition. I auditioned for the role of boy chorister (or treble) which is the highest voice offered in the choir. Fortunately I passed the audition but it wasn’t that easy as I had to undergo a six month trial period as a probationer to see if I was up to the standard needed in order to be a part of the choir. Eventually on the 17th October 2010 I was officially admitted as a chorister which was the start of my career in the choir. A few years later after a lot of practise and a lot of hard work I was made one of the badge boys. Badge boys wear medals to signify experience in the choir and they are also the best in the choir. There are often three or four badge boys at a time. Soon after I was chosen to be the first Saddlers boy chorister which was a medal given by the Saddlers Company to recognise their appreciation for cathedral music. There is also a girl’s Saddlers chorister. This was given to me specifically due to experience and attendance. In January 2014 I became the head chorister in the cathedral which was a great achievement as I felt I had become an important part in the choir.
With head chorister comes great responsibility! It involves a number of things, the most important of which I believe is being a role model to the younger choristers. This meant I had to set an example and also be approachable if others needed help. It’s also important in inspiring younger choristers and over the two and a half years as head chorister I have been encouraged to hear that I have been a good role model to many of the younger children. I also had to do the register for the boys’ choir and wear a large red cloak which identified me to the congregation. It also meant I represented the choir when we went on tours to other cathedrals. Finally my favourite part about being head chorister was doing solos because I feel like I have developed in the choir and come a long way, training my voice and I enjoyed being able to share my talent with the congregation while also being a part of their worship.
Over the years I have partaken in many trips both nationally and internationally to places such as Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany; St. Pauls cathedral in London, England and also Notre Dame in Paris, France. There were also many more but these were in my opinion the best and most exciting ones to visit due to them being globally recognised as iconic cathedrals. While on tour we may look around the area for example in France we went on a boat trip around the river Seine. Notre Dame was my favourite trip and while there we made full use of its amazing acoustics, singing a piece by Bairstow called ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’ which goes from fortississimo (which is very, very loud in Italian) to silence, leaving a haunting echo in the cathedral.
Overall the cathedral has been a wonderful experience and I fully enjoyed my time in the boys’ choir. I have also learnt valuable skills like teamwork and perseverance especially when learning more challenging music. I am planning to join the men’s choir after the summer break singing tenor where I hope to get even more opportunities with the choir.