Meet the parents

Sarah Williams

Transforming my perception of boarding

Sarah Williams

I know that finally, when our amazing chorister journey comes to an end, my son will have acquired a set of skills that will prepare him for whatever challenges life throws at him. Read more...

Louise Landman

Looking back on the chorister experience

Louise Landman

If your son displays an interest and enjoyment of music and singing in particular he will lose nothing from having a go. From our experience of the auditions, no particular practice is required, but having a favourite hymn or song to sing is a good start! If he plays an instrument as well, he can select a piece to play too, though this isn’t essential. Read more...

Chris May

Our road to King’s

Chris May

What a way to spend their pre-teen years. They travel the world and sing their hearts out and get stuck into sports and academic subjects and get into brilliant senior schools and will - we are sure - never ever forget these extraordinary fleeting days. Read more...


Transforming my perception of boarding

Sarah Williams (current Chorister parent)

I hated the idea of boarding. I don’t know exactly why as I knew precious little about it. When my son’s current school suggested a choristership, I spent ages trying to find ones that didn’t require him to board. Then I thought again, and researched; and it dawned on me that perhaps the chorister experience would be enhanced by the thing I was trying to avoid. We visited King’s and I realised just how wrong my perceptions had been: the environment was warm, friendly and lively and both my son and I knew it was right.

He loved boarding straight from the beginning. My son is an only child and boarding gave him the opportunity to spend more time with friends than he would have had living at home, and it also simplified his life because of the many choir commitments (I didn’t have to drive backwards and forwards taking him to rehearsals like the parents whose children were choristers at day schools). Some of his peers found the transition more difficult, but only fleetingly so, and I was amazed how quickly everyone adapted to and came to love their new life.

At King’s the boarding requirement increases as the boys get closer to becoming full choristers. They begin by boarding Sunday to Friday night when in year 4, then in year 5 they initially board on alternate weekends and then increase their involvement as the year progresses. This is a clever tactic as by the time my son was in year 5 he felt very much that he was missing out on the action by not boarding full-time. Saturday nights are particularly fun as it is film night and matron gives the boys extra tuck! Summer evenings include swimming, cricket and barbecues, which are extremely popular with all the boys.

The experience of boarding has changed our relationship in so many ways. Contrary to what people will tell you, your son will not feel abandoned, he will gain independence and learn to work as a team. You will not have to nag him about prep, instrumental practice and too much time in front of the TV as the boarding house team will teach him the skills he requires to get these things done on time. Because you are not living in each others’ pockets you have plenty of things to talk to each other about when you walk him back from Chapel after evensong or when you have lunch together at the weekends. Home time becomes precious and you both learn to appreciate it more than ever before. Time together becomes more fun, because prep and music practice are under control.

The chorister adventure is one for parents as well as pupils. I have made friendships with other parents that I know will last forever and experienced a pride in my son that I could never have dreamed of before he came to King’s.

I know that finally, when our amazing chorister journey comes to an end, my son will have acquired a set of skills that will prepare him for whatever challenges life throws at him.

Sarah’s son is a chorister in Year 8.

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Looking back on the chorister experience

Louise Landman (former Chorister parent)

To have a child that is selected to be a chorister at Kings College Cambridge would be for most parents beyond their wildest dreams. Take heart: it is possible!

If your son displays an interest and enjoyment of music and singing in particular he will lose nothing from having a go. From our experience of the auditions, no particular practice is required, but having a favourite hymn or song to sing is a good start! If he plays an instrument as well, he can select a piece to play too, though this isn’t essential.

Have a go, have no expectations, be relaxed and put no pressure on the child.

The auditions last for a couple of hours during which time the choir-master and the singing teacher have chance to listen to the boy singing his piece and taking part in a few simple tests. There are also a few short reading, writing and maths tests.

The auditions are conducted in a fun and friendly manner; the boys have a thoroughly enjoyable morning, though it can be nail-biting for the parents! In the meantime, the parents are given a tour of the school and there’s a chance to meet some of the current chorister parents over a coffee.

Being a chorister is certainly hard work, both for the boys and their families, but you quickly realize that it is all a well-trodden path and that your boys are in the hands of experts. Kings College School and its staff are fantastic: the boys’ time is managed superbly so that they have enough time to do their work, play sport and have down-time as well. The boys even become organised themselves! Parents and siblings feel welcome and are included in every step of the way. I cannot recommend the life highly enough.

Louise’s four sons were all choristers at King’s between 2001 and 2011.

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Our road to King’s

Chris May (former Chorister parent)

I became intoxicated by King’s on Christmas Eve in 1960: suburban Sutton daylight fading as the clock struck 3pm and my Father tuning in to BBC Home Service on his Marconi Valve Radio. The two of us sat in silence listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols. It was on the front cover of Radio Times. Christ was coming into the world in Cambridge, because there were angels singing and glory echoing from afar. The whole thing was from another world. In the scullery, my mother popped shiny threepenny bits into Mrs Beeton’s Pudding mix.

In 1973, I made the flight into Egypt and listened to King’s before supper in Alexandria near the beach. One day, I brought our five year-old son Barnaby to Cambridge and there we were, in the congregation, eight feet from the conductor Stephen Cleobury as the red light flashed. Barnaby went to sleep in my arms and the Choir disappeared beyond the Organ Screen; I was back in Bethlehem. Three years later, Barnaby and his brother Gabriel passed their auditions.

And King’s still remains Christmas for me: darkness to light, revered by millions of expats sprinkled around the globe.

This side of reality as a Chorister parent, I can tell you King’s is the ultimate Pudding mix – social class, attitudes, beliefs, whatever. The Dean ended a Chapel sermon a couple of years back with the stunner “from whom no one is excluded.” This permeates everything in School and Choir life. So, while we assumed from the outside all Choristers and their Parents oozed blue blood and Bond Street, the truth is we are all too lost in the common cause to notice an absence of corgis.

Inside the Oven, mystery becomes flesh. Sixteen Choristers and eight Probationers jostle for position, getting it wrong and getting it right and emerging as professional musicians saturated with the most glorious music. They work with the world’s best musicians and composers, live in a home-from- home Boarding House and trek around the world performing in jaw-dropping venues. They’re covered by international media; they shake hands with the Prime Minister; and they perform daily with sixteen older brothers doubling as Choral and Organ Scholars.

Some people decry King’s as elitist, just like anything otherworldly. Try swapping ‘elitist’ with ‘divine’ or ‘exacting’ and you’re near, providing you add ‘normal’.

So, five years of King’s: sublime when the stage requires, and normalised by 400 other boys and girls who relate to the Choristers as their mates. We parents are many shapes and sizes. Ask us an opinion on anything and you’ll get 32 different answers. We support each other most of the time and apply gutsy tolerance on occasion.

We put King’s and our boys’ needs above our own. The humbling thing is realising we have modest influence. Of course, our boys love coming home and living family life in a more intense way than before.

What a way to spend their pre-teen years. They travel the world and sing their hearts out and get stuck into sports and academic subjects and get into brilliant senior schools and will - we are sure - never ever forget these extraordinary fleeting days.

Chris's two sons were both choristers and left in 2014 and 2015.

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