Durham Cathedral Choir can trace its origins back to the time of the Cathedral’s foundation in the 11th century.
Originally it was the ‘monks in quire’ who sang the monastic services; and it is known that since at least 1416 they were joined for some of the services by singing boys (Choristers), educated at what is now the Chorister School in the building’s precincts. At the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII Durham became one of the newly-founded cathedrals of the Church of England. The place of the ‘monks in quire’ was taken by laymen (Lay Clerks; lay, as opposed to ordained; clerks, who could therefore read and write).
For centuries, this choir of boy Choristers and Lay Clerks maintained its traditional composition. But in the 1960s the six Lay Clerks were joined by six Choral Scholars – student members of Durham University; and in 2009 the boy Choristers were joined by a team of girl Choristers; they sing in alternation with the existing team of boy Choristers. At the major services of Advent and Christmas, and at other special occasions, all the Choristers sing together with the gentlemen of the choir. Additionally, in 1997 a second choir of volunteer adults was founded: Durham Cathedral Consort of Singers.
In recent years the Cathedral Choir has toured to France, Scotland, Ireland and Holland, as well as within England, giving concerts and singing services. Previous tours have included Germany, Brazil and the United States. Broadcasts include regular appearances on Radio Three for Choral Evensong, with the Royal School Church Music’s annual Celebration Day coming from Durham in 2010 broadcast on BBC1 as Songs of Praise. In September 2009 the choir sang at the Service of Thanksgiving for Sir Bobby Robson, which took place at Durham Cathedral and was broadcast worldwide. In the same month the senior boy Choristers sang with Sting as he recorded his DVD A Winter’s Night at Durham Cathedral. In 2011 the Choristers sang alongside Sir Thomas Allen, Rick Wakeman, Joe McElderry, Barbara Dickson, Kathryn Tickell and Alan Price as part of Carols of Light, an event produced at Durham Cathedral by Sir Tim Rice in partnership with Sunderland Association Football Club Foundation.
All of the Choristers continue to attend the Chorister School, a school for nursery, pre-prep and prep school age children located in the Cathedral precincts. The school – originally founded specifically to educate the singing boys of the monastery – celebrates its 600th anniversary in 2016. The Choristers take a full part in the life of the school, not only in music but also in drama, sport and other pursuits. They all learn the piano, and most learn a second instrument as well. The majority of Choristers achieve scholarships to their next schools.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about joining the Cathedral Choir.
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