The Choir celebrated its 1100th birthday in 2009: boys first sang at Wells Cathedral in 909 and the full choral tradition dates back over 800 years. In 1994, Wells Cathedral became one of the first to launch a girls’ choir. Today, the Cathedral Choir, considered to be one of the finest in the world, consists of eighteen boys and eighteen girl choristers (two separate choirs) and twelve men known as the Vicars Choral.
The choir was recognised by Gramophone Magazine as the greatest choir with children in the world, and the sixth greatest overall.
The choristers receive scholarships to sing in the choir, gaining first-class training in singing and choral music but also benefiting from all the usual curricular and co-curricular activities. Whilst working as part of a close-knit team, the children develop a sense of self-discipline and self-reliance.
The choir sings every day in Wells Cathedral during term time; choristers rehearse each morning before school. They alternate singing Evensong during the week, share the services on weekends, and take part in special services at Easter and Christmas.
The Choir also sings at major festivals and has an extensive repertoire from all historical periods. Alongside Cathedral services, the choir performs recitals, national radio and television broadcasts and regular international tours as well as recording CDs.
If you want to experience a day in the life of a chorister, this is a fun day that takes place on the second Saturday of October each year, when children aged 7 – 9 years old are invited to spend a day at Wells Cathedral. The day includes singing games, learning about the cathedral and finding out what a Chorister really does. Lunch is provided, and at the end of the day the children sing Evensong with the Cathedral Choir. In the afternoon parents can take a tour of the school if they wish, and have afternoon tea in the historic Vicars’ Hall before the Evensong service.
If you are interested in taking part in the next event, please contact the Cathedral Music Office via [email protected] or on 01749 674483.
All Boy and Girl Choristers receive non means-tested Choral Scholarships worth 25% of school fees during their time in the Choir. Once pupils have finished their time in the Choir, they receive a discount worth 5% of their school fees for each year they were in the Choir, worth up to 20%, for the rest of their time at Wells. The School also offers a 10% remission on school fees for a pre-probationary year (see below).
The school, Wells Cathedral, and its fundraising Chorister Trust do all they can to ensure that Wells Cathedral Choir is as inclusive as possible to children who show the necessary potential, irrespective of the financial circumstances of their families. Further means-tested financial awards (bursaries) may be available both from the School and from other trusts (the Head of the Junior School can give advice).
We welcome auditions from pupils aged 7-13. Following auditions, successful pupils at Year 4+ entry are offered a full probationer’s place in the Choir. We offer successful Year 3 entry pupils a ‘pre-probationer’ year-long introductory programme designed to prepare them for full probationary choristership from Year 4 onwards; they do not undertake all of the usual Chorister duties, allowing them to adapt to the life of a Chorister more gradually.
All candidates should have a clear voice, a good vocal range and a quick musical ear. They need to demonstrate a love of singing, as well as an eagerness to learn and the will to be committed. We are not looking for the finished article but for potential, and we have found that many parents and guardians are unaware of their child’s undeveloped singing talent!
The first step is to arrange a pre-audition between September and Christmas to be considered for September entry the following year by contacting our admissions team on 01749 834441 or [email protected]. Please note that your pre-audition with the cathedral organist and master of the choristers needs to take place before our main choral voice trials, which are held in January of each year, and we recommend that you book as early in the academic year as possible to avoid disappointment as slots tend to fill up as we near the voice trials date.
We then invite successful pre-audition candidates to attend our choral voice trials and sit our academic entrance assessments in January. The chorister programme is sent out on application and precise details of the trials are sent out a week before the trials are held. All successful candidates are automatically considered for a choral scholarship.
The Head of the Junior School is always happy to discuss chorister entry.