Leicester Cathedral has a number of different choirs which sing in various combinations at regular services and for special occasions as need dictates. Since there is no choir school, boys and girls are recruited from a wide variety of local state and independent schools (including from those taking part in the schools’ singing programme DioSing! ), while adult singers come from many differing walks of life. Choral Scholarships are available to students at the city’s universities.
Foreign trips have taken the choirs as far afield as Japan and the USA, and most recently Germany (Summer 2013). A trip to the Isle of Man is being planned for Summer 2014. They have also sung at many UK cathedrals (including Wells, Chichester and York Minster) in the summer months when the regular choirs of those places have been on holiday. In 2016 they will sing for a week at Durham Cathedral. Other activities include the popular residential weeks at Launde Abbey, with the obligatory cycle-ride round Rutland Water.
The choirs enjoy strong links with neighbouring cathedrals and meet up with the choirs of Southwell Minster and Derby and Coventry Cathedrals twice a year (once with the boys and Songmen, and once with the girls) for the Midlands Four Choirs’ Festival, which is always a memorable experience for all involved.
Auditions to the Boys’ and Junior Girls’ Choirs are held each year. In 2016 this will be on Saturday 5 March. The Director of Music, Christopher Ouvry-Johns, is pleased to hear from the parents of prospective Choristers at any time and can be contacted through the Cathedral Office.
Boy Trebles (Year 3 upwards)
The Boy Trebles attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4.30 – 6.10pm and sing two to three Sunday services per month, usually with the Songmen. On Tuesdays they sing Evensong on their own, while on Thursdays they alternate with the Junior Girls in singing Evensong with the Choral Scholars and Young Songmen. In the weeks when the Junior Girls sing Evensong, they use the time to rehearse for one of the following Sunday’s services. When boys’ voices change, they become Young Songmen.
Junior Girls’ Choir (Years 3 to 8)
The Junior Girls attend on Mondays and Thursdays from 4.30 – 6.10pm and sing two to three Sunday services per month, usually with the Songmen. On Mondays they sing Evensong, either on their own, or with the Senior Girls. On Thursdays they either sing Evensong with the Choral Scholars and Young Songmen or, in the weeks when the Boy Trebles sing Evensong, rehearse for one of the following Sunday’s services. At the end of Year 8 they move into the Senior Girls’ Choir.
Boys whose voices are changing continue to attend on Thursday, when they receive specialist attention that they need to help them get used to their new vocal range from one of the Cathedral music staff and sing alongside the Choral Scholars at Evensong with either the Boy Trebles or the Junior Girls. They no longer attend on Tuesdays, but start coming on a Friday from 7.30 – 9.10pm, when they rehearse alongside the Senior Girls and the older Songmen for Sunday services.
Senior Girls’ Choir (Years 9 upwards)
When they reach Year 9, girls continue to attend on Mondays, but only every second week, to accommodate the increasing demands of schoolwork. The main practice of the week for the Senior Girls is on a Friday evening from 7.00 – 8.30pm, when they rehearse a broad range of repertoire. They usually sing one of the Sunday services together with the Songmen.
Leicester Cathedral Chamber Choir
The Cathedral Chamber Choir is a group of semi-professional and professional singers that rehearses for specific events as required, rather than having a regular weekly rehearsal. Repertoire is always challenging and rewarding to sing and has included the J.S. Bach motet ‘Singet dem Herrn’ (sung one to a part at the Legal Service in 2011), Frank Martin’s ‘Mass for Double Choir’ (sung by a group of sixteen singers at a summer Sunday Eucharist at the Cathedral), and Britten’s ‘Five Flower Songs’ (sung at the Flower Festival in September 2013). The Director of Music, Christopher Ouvry-Johns, is always pleased to hear from interested adult singers with excellent sight-reading skills interested in joining this group.
The Songmen Emeriti are a group of retired Songmen which meets a number of times each year to sing and socialise together. Many were also Choristers in the Cathedral Choir and in some cases have been involved with the music at Leicester Cathedral for over seventy years. The annual trip to sing Evensong at Mount St Bernard’s Abbey, usually on the first Saturday of May, is a highlight of the calendar, not least because of the excellent meal (in no less excellent company) at the Copt Oak afterwards.