Canterbury Cathedral will open its Boys’ Choir to singers from state schools to improve “equality and inclusion”.
Choristers were traditionally recruited from boarders at the nearby independent day and boarding school St Edmund’s, where fees can reach £40,000 per year, but the cathedral’s leadership has decided to reform the rules following a review.
Canterbury’s 25-strong choir will be open to local state schools as part of a push to attract children aged eight to 13 “from a diverse range of backgrounds”.
A statement from the cathedral said that it is “committed to progressing equality and inclusion throughout the establishment, and announced that the requirement that singers are boarding pupils at the neighbouring school would be dropped in light of this.
The Very Reverend Dr David Monteith, Dean of Canterbury, added: “Music is an integral part of worship in which the cathedral takes great pride.
“We have a united vision of Canterbury Cathedral that blesses and serves the people of Canterbury and the wider community.”
Rev Monteith thanked St Edmund’s for the 50-year partnership the cathedral and the school have enjoyed, saying that the decision would create equity between the Boys’ choir and the Girls’, which has always recruited from all local schools in the Canterbury area.
The ensemble will now draw from both state and private schools, it is understood, and it is hoped that this enlarged talent pool will help ensure the longevity of the choir.
The cathedral’s position is that the more choristers that can be recruited, the better it will be for the future of the choir.
It maintains that this model works and benefits both the students and the choir by ensuring that there is a wider pool of talent from which to recruit.
The cathedral considered it a priority that the Boys’ and Girls’ Choir be put on “an equal footing”.
David Newsholme, director of music for Canterbury Cathedral, welcomed the changes, saying: “We want music-making in our cathedral not just to survive, but to evolve and flourish, and we share the Cathedral Music Trust’s commitment to enabling children from a diverse range of backgrounds to experience the many benefits that come from being a chorister.
“We believe that this is the way to secure the future of the choir and we are excited to be moving forwards into this new era, building on the strengths of our two well-established and respected choirs.”
The Cathedral will continue to financially support all choristers currently studying at St Edmund’s School on a full choral scholarship until their tenure with the choir has finished.
Canterbury goes back to the 1960s
Canterbury Cathedral Choir consists of adult singers, boy choristers aged between eight and 13, and girl choristers aged between 12 and 18.
The choir boasts alumni including Sir Mark Elder, Trevor Pinnock and choral director Harry Christophers.
Alumnus Mr Christophers has said that during his time 60 years ago, there was no rule on where the choristers were recruited from, which gave him the opportunity to sing.
He said: “I am very much indebted to the Choir of Canterbury Cathedral for the incredible experience it gave me as a chorister back in the 1960s. It instilled in me a passion for music, and, without doubt, I would not be where I am today without that opportunity.”
Describing his “humble background”, he said: “Without the inclusive recruitment policy that was practised during my tenure, my parents would not have had the means to fund compulsory private schooling, nor would they have wished me to board, making joining the choir an impossibility.
“I am very much in support of this move to enable children from a diverse range of backgrounds to experience the many benefits that come from being a chorister.”TIOB News