The Choir and singing

Choristers in Australia

Rehearsing in Australia, 2014

Outside of school hours the Choristers rehearse and perform with the internationally renowned Choir of King’s College Cambridge.

The boys perform choral services (called either 'Evensong' or 'Eucharist') in the Chapel five days a week during the eight-week University terms, with days off on Mondays and Wednesdays. Outside of these regular services, the Choristers have the opportunity to perform on radio and television broadcasts, make recordings, and perform in magnificent concert venues around the world.

The Choir singing in The Royal Albert Hall
The Choir singing in a Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall

The choristership experience is probably the best musical education available to boys of this age; it also brings with it the benefits of skills that will last a lifetime. Performing to a highly professional standard, choristers gain a natural self-confidence, as well as the appreciation of good time-keeping and the rewards that result from hard work.

The routine

During a regular day, the Choristers will have a practice together in the morning for an hour before lessons start. It’s then a normal School day until after the last lesson, when the boys have a break before processing over to the Chapel.

There they will rehearse for the chapel service that evening and are joined by the choral scholars, who are undergraduate members of King’s College and provide the lower voices. After the service the boys return to school for supper, prep, and some down-time at the end of the day.

Special events and tours

Chorister smiling

Singapore, 2013

During the year the Choir performs in a number of concerts and broadcasts, and makes its own recordings.

There are often exciting opportunities for the Choristers to travel to wonderful places all around the world, as well as to meet and perform with some of the greatest performing musicians of this generation. You can find photograph albums of our recent tours on the Choir’s Facebook page or read a tour blog from the 2015 USA tour.

These events are scheduled well in advance in order to minimise disruption, and to manage the boys’ workload. The number of concerts is regulated by King’s College’s Use of Choir Committee, which is designed solely to ensure that the amount of performing and travelling is kept to manageable levels. The School Headmaster is a member of this committee.

The training

Choristers celebrating becoming full members of the Choir

Year 6 boys celebrate joining the Choir as full members, 2013

Once your son has been accepted into the Choir, he spends two years as a ‘Probationer’. During this period he will learn, with his year group, all that he will need to know to begin to perform with the full Choir. At the end of his time as a probationer he joins the Choir as a full member, usually in year 6.

But the learning doesn’t stop there: as a regular member of the Choir your son will learn all the attributes of a professional performer up until his very last day of School. These are skills he will keep for the rest of his life.

The people

The Choristers’ main point of contact when performing with the Choir is with the College’s Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury. Stephen is a Music Fellow of King’s College and is responsible for the Choir’s activities; he has held the post since 1983 and is one of the leading choral directors today.

Assisting the Director of Music are two Organ Scholars. They are undergraduate students of King's who, alongside their academic work, have responsibility for most of the organ playing in Chapel and the accompaniment of the Choir. The Organ Scholars also assist with morning chorister practices, as well as with training of the choristers and probationers.

The Choristers perform alongside the Choral Scholars. These are 14 undergraduate students of King’s who sing the alto, tenor and bass parts in the Choir; like the Organ Scholars, these duties are addition to their regular academic studies at King’s College and the University of Cambridge.  They are appointed on the basis of both their academic and vocal performance.

Choristers stretching before a concert

Singing teacher Lynette Alcántara leads a warmup, Australia 2014

There is often the opportunity for the Choristers to engage with the Organ and Choral Scholars, many of whom were choristers themselves.

Australian-born mezzo-soprano Lynette Alcántara teaches the Choristers. She is a renowned soloist in her own right, and sings in opera, oratorio, recital and on disc.

She has sung for many of the leading ensembles in Britain including The BBC Singers, The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, English National Opera, Opera North, The Bach Choir and The King’s Consort. She appears regularly for BBC radio and TV, and frequently at the Royal Albert Hall and on the South Bank.

She has been teaching since her student days where she was awarded a Bachelor of Music Education with Honours in Voice at the University of Melbourne, also specializing in vocal pedagogy, classroom singing and choral skills. Whilst in Australia she worked for The Australian Boys’ Choir, Melbourne Youth Choir and was a founding staff member of the Young Voices of Melbourne.

She has a thriving singing teaching practice in Cambridge with pupil successes including 2016 BBC Radio 2 Young Girl Chorister of the Year. Lynette leads outreach workshops on behalf of the BBC Singers, The King’s Singers, Britten Sinfonia, and SingUp, has taught for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and conducts the community children’s choir King’s Junior Voices.  She is a Fellow and Director of Music at Wolfson College, Cambridge and lectures and teaches at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge.

You can read more about Lyn on her website.

The School is responsible for safe-guarding all of the students of King’s College School (Child Protection Policy).  Everyone who works with children is screened, and the Chapel staff and Choral Scholars receive advice on the safe-guarding of children. 

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