Could Your Child Benefit From a Free and Unique Musical Education?

Posted on: March 28th, 2018

Newcastle Cathedral offers a unique and completely free musical education to children from across the Diocese and beyond.

Free musical education at Newcastle Cathedral

Special diocesan or civic events, and Christmas celebrations are the occasions on which most people hear the Cathedral Choristers. Lesser known are the almost daily services of Choral Evensong (Monday to Thursday at 5:30pm, and Sunday at 4:00pm). These are beautiful services of prayer in which the ancient texts, that now seem almost timeless, are sung to a different musical setting. The Invitation to Worship, Doxology, Lesser Litany, and Intercessions are sung. The Psalms portray every possible human emotion, and some of it isn’t pretty (I sometimes say to the Choristers that whatever has happened at school, worries, thoughts, aspirations, prayers, they will all turn up at some point in the cycle of psalms). The Canticles talk of social justice, empowerment and hope. The message of the Canticles remains as radical as ever. All are welcome to attend Choral Evensong at Newcastle Cathedral and join us for this special act of worship.

Some may think that this is all ‘ivory towers stuff’, and that the daily 35 minutes of serenity in the Cathedral is rather removed from the lives of people across the Diocese and region. As the Church strives to become more relevant to children and young people, Choral Evensong may seem like a
relic of the past. But I would argue that these repeatedly sung texts can be formative and life changing for the generations of twenty-first century boys (aged 7 to 14), and girls (aged 7 to 18) that sing them.

Newcastle Cathedral is different from the majority of the larger and older Cathedral foundations in that there is no Choir School (it closed during the 1970s). Boys and girls come to the Cathedral after school on two evenings of the week as well as on Sundays. We have separate choirs of boys and girls that take it in turns to sing services with the professional Lay Clerks and student Choral Scholars. It could be seen as a challenging and inconvenient 40 years without the aide of a Choir School, but I would argue that this gives us a special opportunity in that it lessens the barriers in the way of those that can benefit from the Chorister experience.

Perhaps previously perceived as a ‘hobby of the middle classes’, Cathedral Choristerships are available to all, no matter the financial or social background. The message has already started to spread. Our boys’ choir has doubled in number over the past year, and our girls’ choir is going from strength to strength, but there is more work to be done. Unlike any other kind of musical training, being a Newcastle Cathedral Chorister is completely free of charge for parents. In fact each child receives a small bursary or ‘pocket money’ in recognition of the commitment they and their parents make. Other advantages include free individual singing lessons with one of the North East’s best vocal coaches, and one-to-one lessons in Musical Theory. Other exciting opportunities include international concert tours, recordings, broadcasts, and concerts closer to home.

This article, and a number of other events herald the start of our Chorister 2018 campaign. The aim of this year-long project is to make families across the North East aware of this unique, and life changing musical education offered completely free of charge, and available to all children that enjoy music and want to do more of it.

We have science on our side as it is proven that serious singing can help children with literacy, mathematics, concentration skills, problem-solving, physical fitness, self-esteem, confidence, and general well-being.

We presently have 14 Boy Choristers, and 14 Girl Choristers, but we would like to increase this to 20 in each group. If you have a child or grandchild, relative, friend or Parishioner that might benefit from this free musical education, do encourage them to get in touch: music@stnicholascathedral.co.uk or (0191) 232 1939.

Although much of the campaign will be about opportunity, and individual gain, it forms an important strand in our mission and evangelism. All are welcomed into the choir, no matter where they or their families might be on their spiritual journey. What is for certain is that words of Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, along with hymns, psalms and anthems, will remain with those that have sung as a Chorister for the rest of their lives.

Ian Roberts, Director of Music and Organist at Newcastle Cathedral