Go behind the scenes with Chichester Cathedral Choir

The annual Chorister Open Day at Chichester Cathedral promises a fascinating and fun look behind the scenes at the life of the cathedral’s choristers. The day will also be about recruiting the choristers of the future.
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The open day will be on Saturday, March 9 starting at 1.30pm. Book places via 01243 812488 or [email protected].

Charles Harrison, organist and master of the choristers at Chichester Cathedral, is promising a warm welcome: “The open day offers a window into the life of the choir which is a central part of the cathedral’s operation and raison d’etre. The choir can seem a bit distant and mysterious to a lot of people that perhaps interact with them only once or twice a year at the carol service so this is an important chance for us to draw back the curtain and show everyone that we have got a lot of very talented but also very normal children here. It is a real joy to show what happens back-stage.

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“We welcome everybody to a session where the choristers will do some singing and then we invite the children to join us in a choral workshop. They will get a taste of what it is like to work with the choristers and they prepare a couple of pieces together to sing at a service. The parents can come with us or they can look around the cathedral or have a tour of the school. We then meet for the service in which our guests, the visitors, actually take a genuine part in what is happening. But the other reason of course for the open day is that we hope that some of our guests will be excited enough to find out more. Typically every year there will be some of our visitors whose visit results in an application to join the choir. We might get 20 people come to the open day and we're looking for four recruits every year.”

Chichester Cathedral Choir (contributed pic)Chichester Cathedral Choir (contributed pic)
Chichester Cathedral Choir (contributed pic)

The open day helps show “that choristers get so much from their experience. They receive a unique musical education at a time when arts education is becoming a lower and lower priority for governments. There is less happening than there has been for decades but the cathedral is somewhere where we continue to fly the flag for a very high-quality musical education. The choristers gain confidence and it's also about team work but it is also about patience. It's a long process. Choristers don't arrive when they're eight years old able to do a professional job but when they leave, they certainly can, and that's the result of years of work and dedication. They're making beautiful music that is appreciated by many thousands of people. It is not just about training for the future. They're doing a very valuable job in the here and now.”

Enjoyment is absolutely key: “I am enormously grateful to these children and their families for giving us their time and their talents, and I very much believe that part of my job is to make sure that they're having a good time. The whole atmosphere is about friendliness and calm and fun. It is professional but above all it is about encouragement. We're always looking for the positives rather than dwelling on the things that could have been better. We're always moving forward. It's about building up their ability but also their character and their personality.”