Frideswide Choristers

To be a chorister in one of England’s magnificent cathedrals or college chapels is an unforgettable experience for a young person, as well as providing an exceptionally rich and fulfilling musical training. Boy choristers have sung at Christ Church for 500 years, and they are now joined by female counterparts, the choristers of Frideswide Voices. As well as the creative benefits, being a chorister also brings with it a life-long understanding of commitment, professionalism and team-work - indeed many leading actors, musicians, politicians and sportsmen attribute their success to having been a chorister.

Frideswide Choristers do not, unlike the boy choristers, attend the Cathedral School, but instead live at home and attend schools across the City and county of Oxfordshire. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, coming together to form a musical community twice a week.

On average, five choristers a year join the choir, chosen by an informal voice trial in May. Most girls join the Choir at the beginning of Year 3 (the school year in which they turn 8), although there are occasionally vacancies for older girls. Current ‘extra’ vacancies are listed below, for entry in September 2020:

  • Year 6 (i.e. current Year 5) x 1
  • Year 8 (i.e. current Year 7) x 1

There is no cost to be a girl chorister at Christ Church.

Benefits of being a chorister at Christ Church

All choristers also receive an instrumental bursary, allowing them to study an instrument. Those already playing an instrument are encouraged to take up a second study. During weekly training sessions, they also receive one-to-one theory lessons, allowing them to progress more quickly and smoothly through their instrumental study. Their vocal development is overseen by the FV Vocal Tutor, who provides a one-to-one coaching session with each chorister every 2-3 weeks.

Frideswide Choristers sing evensong in the Cathedral at least once a week, usually on Wednesdays, with the professional adult singers of the Cathedral Choir (the Lay and Academical Clerks). They also sing for a full weekend of services once a term, as well as special services at Christ Church and further afield.  Each term is often preceded by a chorister training camp, when girls have the chance to spend time together socially and work on their musicianship, vocal and theory skills. The girls also have a longer residential at least once a year, and make day trips to sing at other UK cathedrals - most recently St Paul’s, Gloucester, St Albans and Salisbury.

Life as a Frideswide Chorister

When they join the Choir at the start of Year 3, girls become “pre-probationers”, who come to the Cathedral on Mondays only. They follow a specialised training programme incorporating singing, music theory and musicianship, and are under the care of their own tutor. At the start of Year 4, they become “Probationers”, and begin to attend rehearsals and services with the full choristers, and then to sing with the full choir. Towards the end of Year 4 they are “made up” to full Choristers, in a ceremony during Evensong in the Cathedral. All members are expected to commit fully to every aspect of being a chorister,  including maintaining an impeccable attendance record. The progression of individual choristers, and the development of the choir as a whole, is dependent upon nurturing a tight-knit team of girls who know they can rely on their colleagues, so absences must be few and far between.

As they gain more experience, girls are entered for chorister exams through the Royal School of Church Music (Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards). All choristers are prepared for ABRSM Grade 5 Theory exams, with most taking the exam (funded by Christ Church) in Year 6 or 7.

 

Girls continue to sing in the Choir until the end of Year 8, though there is also an option in some cases to continue until the end of Year 9 (age 14). Families are expected to commit to the full term of choristership, so that the girls get the most out of the experience. We are therefore sadly unable to accept applications from girls who are likely to go to boarding school before Year 9. Many Frideswide Voices alumnae go on to become members of the Frideswide Consort, a youth choir for ex-choristers founded by the Frideswide Foundation, which sings services at Christ Church and beyond.

 

Weekly Schedule

The schedule below gives an idea of a typical week for Frideswide Choristers, though each term also includes a weekend of services (Saturday Evensong, and Sunday Matins, Eucharist and Evensong) and other one-off events. The girls also sing Evensong without the Clerks on some Mondays during term-time.

Monday              

4.20pm                 Arrival

4.30pm                 Rehearsal, incorporating one-to-one theory lessons, musicianship training and vocal coaching       

6.30pm                 Departure          

 

Wednesday       

4.20pm                 Arrival and snack provided by the Cathedral

4.45pm                 Chorister rehearsal in the Cathedral

5pm                      Full rehearsal with Lay and Academical Clerks

5.45pm                 Break

6.05pm                 Choral Evensong

6.45pm                 Departure

 

Pre-Probationers (those in Year 3) attend only on Mondays in the Autumn and Spring terms.

Probationers (usually those in Year 4) sing only a portion of Wednesday services during the Autumn and Spring terms.