Carlisle Cathedral Choir dates back at least as far as the new foundation of the Cathedral in 1541. The Cathedral Statutes of 1545 provided for six choristers, 'boys of tender age, and with sonorous voices and apt at chanting'. Today, over four and a half centuries later, the choir includes up to sixteen boy choristers, the same number of girl choristers, six regular lay clerks with additional choral scholars and part time lay clerks.
Until 1935 the choristers were educated at the Cathedral’s own choir school; today the children are recruited from local day schools, and each set of choristers attends the Cathedral on alternate Sundays and on two weeknights in rotation. The boys sing on Tuesdays and Fridays after school, the girls on Mondays and Thursdays. On special occasions such as Christmas and Easter the boys and girls sing together, but for the majority of the time they work independently of each other in a spirit of friendly rivalry.
In recent years the choir has given performances in Latvia, Portugal, France, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Poland and the USA. The choir has broadcast Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 and made four CDs. Ten years ago Nicholas Brown won the coveted title BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year and in 2008 Andrew Johnston came third in the Final of Britain’s Got Talent on ITV.
How to Join
Boys and girls are eligible to join the Cathedral Choir as probationers once they reach Year 4 (younger children are encouraged to join Carlisle Cantate). They are selected by an audition which can take place at any mutually convenient time. No previous musical training is required; all that is looked for is a good ear and a love of singing. A child’s reading ability is also taken into consideration. To arrange an audition please contact the Master of Music, Jeremy Suter.
Joining the Cathedral Choir
Life as a Cathedral chorister can be challenging, rewarding and exciting – all at the same time! While offering a first-rate musical education, it also teaches some of the most important lessons for life, such as self-discipline and working together as a team.
Among the material benefits on offer are:
- Annual bursary paid to the parents
- Monthly pocket money paid to the choristers
- Extra money for weddings, concerts and broadcasts
- Grants towards instrumental lessons
- Free individual singing lessons with a professional teacher
- Foreign tours
- Free refreshments after school
The duties consist of two Sunday Services and four weekday Evensongs (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), with a rehearsal 40 minutes before each service. The treble line alternates between girls and boys. Wednesdays and Saturdays are normally free.
The annual stipend (£4,600) is reviewed in January each year. There are also fees for certain additional services, including weddings, funerals and broadcasts.
There is provision for each Lay Clerk to receive one free singing lesson per term with a teacher approved by the Master of the Music.
The choir is normally free during school half terms and holidays with an additional week after Christmas and Easter to compensate for the 'run-up' to these major festivals. There are thus sixteen weeks holiday in the year.
A completed application form should be sent to the Music Department Administrator, Cathedral Office, 7 The Abbey, Carlisle CA3 8TZ firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to its regular work the choir takes part in concerts both in the Cathedral and elsewhere. Past concerts have included a performance with Fine Arts Brass which included the first performance of Imagined Corners by John McLeod. In 2011 the choristers took part in Fanshawe’s African Sanctus at the Sands Centre with Cumbria Rural Choirs.
On Sunday 20 March 2016 (Palm Sunday), the Chamber Choir sang Haydn's Stabat Mater at 6.30pm in a devotional performance.