Choristers FAQs

At what age should my son apply to King’s?

Most boys will be between the ages of six and nine at the time of their audition, ideally in Year 2 or 3.

How do I know if my son is the right standard for King's Choir?

If you know that your son is interested in becoming a Chorister, and you feel that this might be a lifestyle that you are happy to commit to and support as a family, the first step is to email Katie Randle at choristers@kings.cam.ac.uk. It is important to know that we are not looking for a trained singer: becoming a Chorister at King's involves its own training!

The next stage is to arrange a time to visit King's College School, and to meet some of the staff, including the Housemaster, Ed Sykes, and the Choir's Director of Music, Daniel Hyde.

Assuming that you are still interested, you can then apply for your son to come to one of two annual audition days, where he will sing to a few people, including Daniel Hyde, play his musical instrument/s and do some academic tests in English and Maths. You will hear within a few days whether your son has been successful.

How should I start the process?

To start with, we would love to hear from you if you are considering a choristership at King’s for your son, or even if you just have some questions: contact Katie Randle at choristers@kings.cam.ac.uk.

Then, if you and your son are still keen, you can come to King’s College and meet informally with the Director of Music, Daniel Hyde. This can be a useful and, importantly, a relaxed opportunity for your son to sing to Daniel, and for you to ask questions about being a Chorister at King’s.

If then you still wish to put your son forward, he can attend one of the audition days held a couple of times each year.

What happens at the audition day?

The morning begins with an informal gathering of all the parents and boys who are taking part in the auditions. There are plenty of people who you can talk to over coffee, including some current Chorister parents, so that you can learn more about the life of a Chorister. The Director of Music, Mr Daniel Hyde, usually gives a short talk before the auditions start, and then your son will leave with a member of the Boarding House Staff to begin the more formal part of the day. Meanwhile, the Boarding Housemaster, Mr Ed Sykes, and Senior Matron will take you on a tour of the Boarding House, enabling you to ask any questions about the boarding side of being a Chorister.

During your son's audition, which lasts approximately 8 – 10 minutes, he will first be asked to sing a short and simple prepared song to a small group of people, usually including Ms Lyn Alcantara (the Choristers' Singing Coach), Mrs Yvette Day (the Head), the organ scholars and Mr Daniel Hyde. It's ideal if you can provide two copies of the music. Mr Hyde will also ask him to do some aural tests, such as clapping back a rhythm, picking notes out of a simple chord and singing back a melody played on the piano. If your son plays a musical instrument (by no means a necessity), he will be asked to play a short piece to the School's Director of Music, Mr James Randle. He will also meet Mr Colin Dely (the School's Head of the Junior School) to do the academic tests. In between times, he will be able to play games with the other boys taking part, overseen by one of the Boarding House staff. The morning is busy, but the boys auditioning come away feeling very positive about their experience.

The auditions are usually finished by lunchtime, and the Head will be in touch with you within a week.

When are the auditions?

We usually hold two auditions a year. Please get in touch with Katie Randle at choristers@kings.cam.ac.uk for more information, or see our Auditions page. We are always happy to meet informally at any time in the year with you if you are considering your son becoming a chorister at King's.

What sort of music should my child prepare?

A simple song, even a hymn, will be suitable – just something that your son enjoys singing. It may be sacred or secular. We ask that you bring two copies of the music so that he can be accompanied on the piano.

How long will the singing part of the audition last?

Around 8-10 minutes.

What are you looking for in a chorister?

An enthusiasm for music and, in particular, singing! Your son will start off as a probationer for two years, during which time he will learn many of the skills he will need to become a fully-fledged chorister. Some of the most important aspects we look for in addition to enthusiasm are reasonable concentration, and supportive family.

Life as a Chorister

What does the training entail?

Before becoming a King's Chorister, your son will usually undergo a two year probationary period. Most boys start as a Probationer in Year 4, when they are given training to enable them to start performing with the Choir at some point in Year 5. If the probationary period is successful, your son will become a full Chorister at a special ceremony, usually early in Year 6. At this point he will receive his top hat – a proud moment for both you and your son!

When will his Choristership end?

At the end of Year 8, when he is thirteen; this coincides with him leaving King’s College School and moving to secondary school. If his voice changes before the end of Year 8, he may have to stop singing with the Choir. In this eventuality he will continue to be supported within the School, although he will probably choose to board weekly rather than stay at the School at weekends. 

How does the work of a Chorister fit in with the usual school day?

All King’s Choristers follow a normal school programme alongside the other students at King’s College School. Instrumental and Chorister practices take place before the school day begins, and choral services in King’s Chapel are at the end of the day, minimising the impact on a normal school day.

Can you explain how the financial arrangements for being a Chorister work?

King’s College pays around two-thirds of full boarding fees for all choristers: see the fees on the King's College School website. Further financial support may be available to those who need it: please contact the School to find out more about bursaries. All choir activities, including international tours, are fully funded by King's, with the exception of pocket-money.

What happens about concerts and touring?

In addition to regular services at King's College Chapel during the three 8-week University terms, the Choir performs in a number of concerts every year. These take place nationally and internationally and present an exciting opportunity for your son to travel around the world, learning about and experiencing different countries and cultures.

How often do the Choristers perform?

The Choristers have choir practice at School on every weekday and Saturday morning, with the exception of Wednesday. They perform in Chapel as part of the Choir each day during the 8-week University terms except for Mondays and Wednesdays. This takes the form of regular evening choral services that take place in the Chapel. The Choristers also take part in a number of concerts, recordings and other events during the year, including at Easter and Christmas. For more information about the Choristers' schedule, please contact Katie Randle.

Boarding at the School

When will my son start boarding?

From Year 6, all Choristers are required to board full time at King's College School due to their Choir commitments. In Year 4, the Probationers board weekly, going home at the end of the school day on Friday, and coming back to School on Sunday evening so that they are ready for the next morning. In Year 5 your son will start boarding over the weekend, although how often and when this happens will depend on the needs of the Choir. 

Who will be looking after my son in the Boarding House?

The Boarding House at King’s College School is run by the Housemaster and Head of Boarding, Mr Ed Sykes. Ed took over the House in September 2019, although previously worked at King’s from 2013-17, when he was a Classics Teacher and Head of Year. Ed also lived and worked in the Boarding House for four years, firstly as a Resident House Tutor and later as Deputy Housemaster. Ed one of the people responsible for the choristers pastorally and accademically, and runs a House in which they feel safe, supported and happy.

Ed is supported by his deputy, Mr Ian Barker, who is in charge of PSHE at King’s, and teaches Latin and Maths. The Senior Matron, Ms Lisa Wilkinson, and the Assistant Matron, Mr Colin Dely, ensure that the medical needs of the boarders are met. There is always a matron on duty overnight.

Three additional experienced House Tutors look after the children in the house alongside a team of four gap students.

 

Are parents welcome in the Boarding House?

There are lots of opportunities for you to see your son, both in the Boarding House and in their free time. In addition, all boys are welcome to go out with parents on a Wednesday afternoon after School. There are other opportunities for those boarding over the weekend – see below. When they return on a Sunday evening, we encourage our younger boys to come straight to the Housemaster's flat, where there is hot chocolate and a short DVD on offer: this makes the initial separation much easier for all.

You can also contact your son by phone, Skype or FaceTime. 

What is the food like?

King's College School prides itself on the excellence of its food - everything is cooked on the premises, and is supplied by the best local suppliers. The kitchen has been awarded 5 stars for its excellent food hygiene. The children get to know the kitchen staff very well, and evening and weekend meals have a lovely feel to them. We encourage good table manners, and the children take it in turns to take part in duties such as wiping down tables so that they learn that the elves don't do everything for them!

How is prep (homework) managed?

There are three prep (homework) sessions - one with the younger boys, one for the older boys, and one for the boys in the top year (Year 8). Prep is always supervised, and all the boarding staff have a good understanding of the academic needs of each child.

Should a boy wish to do academic work outside the allocated prep time, for example as he approaches academic scholarship exams, he is able to work in the House Study, and there are always staff on-hand to help. 

What activities are there in the evenings?

Once prep is over, there is a full range of activities for the boys. There is always an outdoor activity, ranging from football, to touch rugby, swimming and dodgeball; for those who would rather be more sedate in the evening, we provide games such as chess, pool, table-football and lego. All activities are supervised by House staff, who often enjoy them as much as the children!

What are the sleeping arrangements in the Boarding House?

Boarders sleep in dormitory accommodation, usually arranged by year-group. Each boy has his own personal bed area, including wardrobe space, a bedside cupboard and an under-bed drawer. In addition, they each have a pin board over or near to their bed on which they can attach posters or cards and letters. We try to make the dormitories as comfortable as possible, so that the children feel at home. There are no more than eight beds to a dormitory.

What happens at the weekend?

The weekend schedule is busy, but we make the most of the free time which the boys have - they either go out with parents or friends, or we give the boys free time to relax in House. The Year 8 boys have the privilege of being able to walk into town, something which they very much enjoy. Saturday night is movie night, when we watch age-appropriate films in the common rooms, where popcorn or tuck often await them. Sunday morning sometimes gives the opportunity of a walk for early risers.

What are the bed times?

The boys go up to their dormitories 45 to 30 minutes before bedtime, depending upon whether it is a bath or shower night. They have 15 minutes quiet time, in which we read to the younger children; the older children are encouraged to read their own books, although even our Year 8 boys enjoy being read to at times! Bedtimes in the winter are:
Years 4 and 5: 8.30 pm
Year 6: 8.45 pm
Year 7: 9.00 pm
Year 8: 9.15 pm
These times are 15 minutes later in the summer months.

What happens at Christmas and Easter?

Once your son completes his training, he is expected to sing at all the Christmas and Easter services. While it might seem hard to be away from home at these family times, in fact the boys have a great deal of fun. When they’re not singing, there is a programme of special trips and activities, including going to the pantomime, laser-quest and the cinema; they look forward to these times second only to the tours!

Father Christmas pays a visit to the House, and the boys enjoy setting traps for him after a Christmas party and dinner on Christmas Eve with family following the live broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols.

There is also a rumour that a pillow fight takes place early on Christmas Day morning, although the staff know nothing about this! The children are free to go home after the Christmas Day Service in Chapel, which finishes at around midday.

Easter is similar, although this time the Easter Bunny comes to visit the House in an Easter Egg Hunt, following another family lunch. We are always mindful of the family significance of these days, and try to be as inclusive as possible, but we ask you to respect the fact that these are also times when the boys' professionalism is called upon more than ever.

Where can I find the latest inspection reports?

Inspection reports, as well as School policies, and a full list of governors, can be found on the School website - see the link below.

Some of the boarders relaxing at school
The Choristers are all educated at King’s College School, a leading co-educational prep school with 400 boys and girls aged 4–13.
Performing at the Royal Albert Hall
Outside of school hours the Choristers rehearse and perform with the internationally renowned Choir of King’s College Cambridge.
We are always pleased to hear from parents who would like to know more about choristerships and welcome you to get in contact.
From the Director of Music to the vocal coaches, there is ample support available to help our Choirs improve their craft.

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