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Guest Roffensis

A Carrot Dangled?

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Guest Roffensis

A recent experience I have had is worth a mention I feel. I am not happy to mention which "major church" I refer to, or to any individual. Nor do I wish to apportion any blame. It is simply a set of circumstances, and shows how things can happen.

 

The "Carrot" consists of a policy whereby choristers are given a place in a school of high standing. In other words, if your church has a chorister who is very good, the chances are that the parents, looking to further education, will quite rightly want the best possible for their child. Any parent worth their salt would. Next step, voice trial.

 

A "major church" will of course be happy to take on an exceptional voice. It's in their interests to, and again, it makes sense.

 

However, a "major church" may well have it's own schools to draw from..... the situation is tricky. It's the Carrot. It can rob parishes of their own youngsters, their parents attending the church, the choir of losing an excellent voice, maybe a head chorister, and it also places a constant threat to future choristers in a church. Why should a choirmaster train a chorister, only to have him cherry picked at an ideal moment? What is the point of trying to build up a choir?

 

So the issue is not actually how something happens as such, but the way parents see an avenue to get a child a good school. I had to sit entrance exams.

 

I offer no solution, I can only reiterate that the problem is there. At parish level it is very difficult indeed to recruit choristers, and when you do, teach them to sing, and to play organ or whatever, to read music, it can all be snatched away. No single body is to blame, only the "Carrot". You cannot blame the parents.

 

But, one hears the question asked why there are so few choirs, why our congregations are falling. Here is one reason. When one spends a lot of ones time training, only to lose excellent voices, it does grate. Just a little!

 

Personally, I shall carry on regardless, although I shall be training choristers at one particular parish only. And yes, I know!....I should have taken it as compliment that a chorister I trained from scratch was chosen.

 

R

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It can be frustrating. Working in Cheltenham there is the risk of choristers winning scholarships into Dean Close School, Cheltenham Colledge, and into the Gloucester Cathedral Choir/King's School. I've lost choristers to all three. There's not much you can do about it, but you can sometimes try to use it to advantage. I see no harm in suggesting that parents might like their children to join my choir because it may give them a chance of getting a scholarship later on.

 

I did get very annoyed with the cathedral a few years ago when they were blatently trying to poach choristers from church choirs. Our PCC Secretary received a letter asking if she knew of any children who sang and, if so, could she pass on a cathedral choir recruiting pack to them. Luckily she came to me and asked if she should give the details out to our choristers (and I replied in the negative). Let the cathedral publicise its voice trials in the usual way and I'll support and help prepare any chorister that wants to put it an application, but I don't expect the cathedral to steal the choristers by "Back door" methods.

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It can be frustrating. Working in Cheltenham there is the risk of choristers winning scholarships into Dean Close School, Cheltenham Colledge, and into the Gloucester Cathedral Choir/King's School. I've lost choristers to all three. There's not much you can do about it, but you can sometimes try to use it to advantage. I see no harm in suggesting that parents might like their children to join my choir because it may give them a chance of getting a scholarship later on.

 

I did get very annoyed with the cathedral a few years ago when they were blatently trying to poach choristers from church choirs. Our PCC Secretary received a letter asking if she knew of any children who sang and, if so, could she pass on a cathedral choir recruiting pack to them. Luckily she came to me and asked if she should give the details out to our choristers (and I replied in the negative). Let the cathedral publicise its voice trials in the usual way and I'll support and help prepare any chorister that wants to put it an application, but I don't expect the cathedral to steal the choristers by "Back door" methods.

Hmm, this is difficult. I certainly remember being royally p--d off in my youth when a lad I'd spent 4 years on got whisked into the cathedral choir well over age. And some of the recruiting materials and methods are rather OTT. (I know we have serious limits but we're not quite as 'noddy' as is implied - or said!).

 

On the other hand there were parents who really coudn't afford the fees and needed the scholarship and so put their sons into our choir in hope of a later 'promotion'. This also put pressure on the kids. One poor lad was put in for auditions over and over again. He had a nice, but small, voice and so wasn't deemed 'suitable'. By the time his parents gave up he had absolutely no self confidence and hated singing.

 

No solutions I'm afraid; and from the cathedrals' standpoint highly problematical as they too have difficulties in recruiting sufficient singers.

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With most Cathedrals now sporting a girls' choir as well as the traditional boys, I have often felt quite sorry for the Organist of the church nearest the Cathedral who must constantly lose his or her best choristers to the Cathedral. I presume that Cathedrals have done this in the name of equality, but the effect on neighbouring churches must be quite severe.

 

Ian Crabbe

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Yes. The issue here is surely not so much the incentives that cathedrals offer, but the fact that they will inevitably acquire choristers, of whatever sex, from parish choirs. This has always happened and I do not see a way round it. Of course in the old days when a good parish choir might have 20 or more boys the impact would not have been nearly as great as it is today.

 

It did once happen to a friend of mine who lost a boy to Willcocks's choir at King's, no less. It was a very small choir so he could ill afford the loss. He did feel slightly rueful about it for years afterwards, but hardly bitter - he was never that egocentric. I think he looked on it more as a feather in his cap and was able to take pleasure in the fact that the lad was obtaining a musical experience and education far in excess of what he himself could have offered.

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I think he looked on it more as a feather in his cap and was able to take pleasure in the fact that the lad was obtaining a musical experience and education far in excess of what he himself could have offered.

 

I think that's by far the healthiest way of looking at it.

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I think that's by far the healthiest way of looking at it.

Would it be possible for the Cathedrals and other choral foundations to fill their choirs entirely with children who had never been in a parish church choir? It's a bit like expecting to appoint bishops without reducing the number of good parish priests. :angry:

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Guest Roffensis
Would it be possible for the Cathedrals and other choral foundations to fill their choirs entirely with children who had never been in a parish church choir? It's a bit like expecting to appoint bishops without reducing the number of good parish priests. :lol:

 

 

My own personal stance has become that I simply do not bother to train voices any longer. This may seem negative, and is, but it saves me time and effort! :lol:

 

R

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I think all through life people have been head hunted, or foot hunted or voice hunted. Great and glorious institutions were fed by scouts and are still to this day. It happens. Organ scholars too. But sometimes choirs that have lost singers to 'greater' places have often produced a better choir because of that very same reputation of sending them. Its an odd situation but one that I'm sorry to say is prevalent in most walks of life. I sent two from a village and finished up with a boys section of 24 and a waiting list of 5. But you have to work at it! It's the PR machine and the loss can be worked to be your gain. I am convinced.

Best wishes

Nigel

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I did get very annoyed with the cathedral a few years ago when they were blatently trying to poach choristers from church choirs. Our PCC Secretary received a letter asking if she knew of any children who sang and, if so, could she pass on a cathedral choir recruiting pack to them. Luckily she came to me and asked if she should give the details out to our choristers (and I replied in the negative). Let the cathedral publicise its voice trials in the usual way and I'll support and help prepare any chorister that wants to put it an application, but I don't expect the cathedral to steal the choristers by "Back door" methods.

Interestingly, I was contacted a while back by a well known local choral society in a nearby town (who shall remain nameless) who wanted me to distribute recruitment leaflets to my pupils. I said I would do this and did so; but, I then got a phone call a few months later to ask me why no one had joined. I politely pointed out that I could pass on information, but couldn't necessarily be seen to favour one choir over another. I get a lot of requests of that nature. Whether they join is up to them; I'm certainly not going to make them!

 

David

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It can be frustrating. Working in Cheltenham there is the risk of choristers winning scholarships into Dean Close School, Cheltenham Colledge, and into the Gloucester Cathedral Choir/King's School. I've lost choristers to all three. (.....)

Which church do you play in? Only interested as I know one or two of the churches in Cheltenham.

 

Dave

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With most Cathedrals now sporting a girls' choir as well as the traditional boys, I have often felt quite sorry for the Organist of the church nearest the Cathedral who must constantly lose his or her best choristers to the Cathedral. I presume that Cathedrals have done this in the name of equality, but the effect on neighbouring churches must be quite severe.

 

Ian Crabbe

 

Our church choir used to suffer from this problem. We solved it by allowing our diocesan cathedral to acquire an chorister who had a deep attraction to very sharp knives - and an ardent (and arguably psychotic) desire to use them on his fellow choristers.

 

The cathedral organist left us alone for years after that little fiasco....

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Would it be possible for the Cathedrals and other choral foundations to fill their choirs entirely with children who had never been in a parish church choir? It's a bit like expecting to appoint bishops without reducing the number of good parish priests. B)

 

I'm not aware that any of our current crop of boys was ever in a parish choir before coming to the cathedral, though one or two of the girls might have been. Traditional choirs singing traditional music are becoming more and more of a rarity in our neck of the woods. A certain kind of churchmanship which has little knowledge of, or use for, the kind of music we know and love is in the majority in our diocese and rules the roost at big diocesan services (although - please forgive the blowing of one's own trumpet! - things have improved somewhat since we insisted on working together rather than as "us & them"). But one still despairs sometimes: at a recent meeting to plan music for an ordination, the question arose as to which (congregational) setting of the Gloria to use. "What's the Gloria?" asked one of the music leaders.

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