Friday 30 January 2009


The happiest and saddest day is when your son arrives home from school and announces he would like to be a chorister. We knew this was a possibility from the very first day we enrolled Sebastian in St George's School but honestly we were hoping he would inherit his singing ability (or lack thereof) from his father and it would not be a topic we would have to navigate.

Sebastian attends St George's School which is the choir school for St George's Chapel which is part of Windsor Castle. St George's School was founded in order to provide an education for the choristers. It is their raison d'etre. The choir is an institution and being a member is an honour indeed and, of course, we are thrilled to have such an opportunity knocking on our door.

The first step towards him becoming a chorister is to give it a go. Last term he spent an afternoon with the choir and attended practice and participated in the Evensong service. Honestly, I had hoped he would be disappointed. No such luck. He was more excited than ever. and, apparently, he demonstrated the right demeanor for a chorister.

Next was to attend an actual service as a family and this weekend we decided to catch the surplicing Evensong service on Sunday evening. Surplicing is when a probationary chorister becomes a full fledged chorister. It was one of the most beautiful events I have ever seen or heard. I felt like I was listening to the voices of angels. Despite there being only 12 boys and 12 men I have never heard such a robust sound. It was the sound of worship and grace and glory.

We sat in the Quire where the choir sits and this 360 degree tour gives a magnificent view of it. Make sure you go up and look towards the ceiling. It will literally take your breath away. It was the first part of the chapel to be built in 1348 and Henry VIII is buried there along with one of his wives Jane Seymour (amongst other members of the Royal Family long since departed). I had to keep pinching myself to believe that I was sitting in such a grand historical place.

Sebastian attempted to follow along with the music and I could tell that he wanted to be singing.

On this coming Saturday Marc, Sebastian and I will attend an open day where we will get a feel for a whole day of choristing and what it means. To me, it means beginning next year he should board 1-2 days/week. I still can't quite get my head around him not coming home but I am trying to think of it as a standing sleep over date. By Year6, he will need to board full time Sunday-Friday.

The reason for the boarding is the level of commitment required for a chorister. They sing at least 3 hours/day for 6 days/ week. That's a lot of singing. They sing for a professional choir. For the men of the choir this is their full time job. They are at the command of the Queen. They are her choir. It it a job. Who puts an 8 year old to work?

But then again very few boys have an opportunity to gain this type of training. And it's not just about the singing. You can see from the website that they record and travel and meet lots of people and gain loads of life skills. And that's what education is all about. Not just the reading and the writing.

I used to perform with two choirs when I was in high school, A Capella ( a mixed choir of 50 or so 15-18 year olds) and Grace Notes (an all girl group of about 12 16-18 year olds). I still have a copy of the album we made my junior year (copied on to CD - Thanks, Suze!) and I listen to it in my car. It is one of my accomplishments of which I am most proud. We rocked. Our performance at the Easter Sun Rise service at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado is a high light of my life. Very few people can say they've performed on that lofty stage. I will never forget that Hallelujah Chorus (neither will Suze!)

Not sure if I'm trying to convince you or me that this is a good idea. Ultimately, only one person gets to make this decision and it is Sebastian.


Anonymous said...

This is truly an opportunity for Seb. You must be very proud of his talent...I am..In the end it is his decision..Right...Tell Seb I am also very proud of him. Mom and Grandma

alexnisbett said...

We went through this exact same experience 12 months ago and now our son is a probationer at a well known city cathedral. He's in his second term and totally loves the school, the cathedral and the singing but not the boarding. I've been posting to a blog to try to capture the experience from our point of view as a family. Yes it is a wonderful opportunity but it's also tough. The school and chorister parents are all incredibly supportive and as boarding is not in our dna, that's super-important. All the best. Alex

Marla said...

Wow, that seems like a lot for such a young boy! So can Seb sing?