The Choir celebrated its 1,100th 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 Boy Choristers, Girl Choristers, and a professional ‘back row’ of 12 Vicars Choral.
The Choir was recognised by Gramophone Magazine as the finest Choir with children in the world.
The Choristers at Wells Cathedral consist of eighteen boys and eighteen girls. These two separate Choirs take it in turns to sing with the Vicars Choral, and occasionally perform on their own. All Choristers are educated at Wells Cathedral School.
Choristers usually enter the choir in Year 4 or Year 5, but this can vary, and we welcome enquiries about entry in any year. Choristers usually leave the choir at the end of Year 9 (when they are about fourteen), or when a boy’s voice changes.
Year 3 pupils may take part in a ‘pre-probationary’ year-long introductory programme; they undertake a reduced schedule of duties, allowing them to adapt to the life of a Chorister more gradually.
The Choir is at the heart of the worshipping life of Wells Cathedral, and sings every day during Term time. Choristers rehearse each morning before school. They alternate singing Evensong during the week, share the services at 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, from the sixteenth-century to the present day, and has premiered works by some of today’s finest composers including Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Dove, Gabriel Jackson, John Rutter, and many more.
Alongside Cathedral services, the Choir broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and takes part in numerous recitals, television broadcasts and regular international tours, as well as recording CDs.
On average, Choristers receive around 50% off their school fees, with some receiving considerably more than this, depending on financial circumstances. All Choristers automatically benefit from a 25% discount on tuition fees and a 50% discount on boarding fees, and may also be considered for further bursaries and financial assistance. In addition, 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 the School. This allows them to maintain continuity of education after Choristership, as well as accessing all the many benefits of Wells Cathedral School for the GCSE and A level years. (See “Money Matters” below.)
The Choristers gain first-class training in singing and choral music, and have incredible musical experiences – such as recitals, broadcasts, recordings and tours – while also benefiting from an outstanding education, and being able to take part in other co-curricular activities.
Working as part of a close-knit team, the children learn how to organise their time and develop essential life skills. They also become more confident and self-reliant. Many former Choristers come back to tell us how influential their time in the choir was
Without those wonderful years as a Chorister I am certain I would not be where I am today.
– David Buckley,
Emmy-nominated composer for TV and film
Experiencing and contributing to Cathedral worship nurtures a Chorister’s spirituality and helps them grow in their understanding of the Christian faith.
In addition to all of this, the Choristers develop close friendships and above all, have lots of fun!
On average, Choristers receive around 50% off their School fees, with some receiving considerably more than this, depending on financial circumstances.
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.
There are a number of ways that families can get help with fees:
Please get in touch if you have any money-related enquiries, and we will be very pleased indeed to talk to you.
We welcome enquiries from pupils aged 7-13.
There is no official closing date for applications, but we strongly recommend that you book as early in the academic year as possible to avoid disappointment as slots tend to fill up.
The first step is to arrange a pre-audition in order to be considered for September entry the following year by contacting our admissions team on 01749 834441 or [email protected].
We then invite successful pre-audition candidates to attend our voice trials and sit academic entrance assessments. All successful candidates are automatically considered for a choral scholarship.
If you and your children would like an informal discussion about becoming a Chorister, then please get in touch! Staff at the School and the Cathedral are always delighted to speak to any interested families.
Please contact our admissions team on 01749 834441 or by email to [email protected].
To find out more about auditioning for the Choir, please contact the Admissions team at Wells Cathedral School via [email protected] or 01749 834213. Click here to download our ‘Chorister Life‘ leaflet. This gives even more information about life as a Chorister, the Choir routine and scholarships.
The Cathedral’s annual ‘Be a Chorister for a Day’ event takes place on the third Saturday of September. Children aged between 7 and 9 are invited to come to the Cathedral for the day to find out what it is like to be a Cathedral Chorister.
The experience 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.