Category Archives: behind the scenes

Special events at Salisbury Cathedral (video)

Last year I took a look at what goes on “behind the scenes” of a chorister’s life, with examples from many churches. This video focuses on special events that occur in the life of a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral.

There was a documentary about this choir on BBC4 recently but this is a different video. It shows some unforgettable moments. For instance, it introduced me to the phenomenon of ‘boy bishops’. Apparently there is a century-old tradition in both Anglican and Roman Catholic churches that on 6 December, St. Nicholas Day, the real bishop hands over his blessing, title and duties to a boy from the choir. The newly appointed boy bishop then gets to perform all the duties of a real bishop, including blessing and giving a sermon. It’s all done in remembrance of Jesus who took a child in the midst of His disciples. There is also a line in the Magnificat, the famous hymn of Mary, sung everyday during Evensong, where Mary proclaims: “God hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek”. The boy becoming a bishop then stands for the simple and innocent youth taking over from those normally in charge. More about this wonderful tradition is here on Wikipedia and more about the Salisbury ceremony is here. I think it’s such a cool tradition! Fun but meaningful at the same time.

The video also shows a stunning Advent ceremony where the church is all in darkness and slowly filled with light as flames are passed from one candle to another – a ritual that reminded me a lot of the Easter Vigil service I am familiar with in the Roman Catholic tradition. The shots of the procession with the singing are a real must-see (and -hear!).
Another moment of recognition came when I realised the robes they wear highly resemble those of my favourite Dutch choir 🙂 (I wonder if they were modelled after the Salisbury ones)
On the other hand, there was not so much recognition at the ceremony of burning small wooden crosses in preparation of Ash Wednesday!

The final part might be the most moving. The end of summer term means some choristers have to leave. The ceremony for their parting brought a tear to my eye. What a life these young people must leave behind and what a rich gift they have been given with their choristers’ experience. Truly very moving, and may their lives be blessed with each new step they take.

Thanks go to film maker Ash Mills who directed, shot and edited this film for Salisbury Cathedral and shared it on Youtube.

It’s A Life (12)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. This week we take a look at one of my absolute favourite choirs, the Choir of St. John’s College in Cambridge. What I love about their sound is its glowing intensity, which director Andrew Nethsinga describes as “a great strong bass line, the colours of which bubble up into the other parts” 🙂 The video also introduces us to the Gents, the fifteen men from the choir who enjoy singing on their own as well.
Besides the gorgeous music, there are great shots of the architecture and surroundings of this beautiful place, including a lovely shot of choristers on rowing boats.
Though lacking in some information here and there (for instance: what does the Dean mean when he speaks of the conflictual history of the origin of the College Chapel, and the way this is reflected in the tradition of Evensong?), this video is a must-see. Enjoy!

It’s A Life (11)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. This week, as promised, a look at the Thomanerchor from Leipzig. And we go even further behind the scenes to look at a young boy, Marcus, on his way to become a chorister, as filmed for German children’s TV channel KIKA. It’s endearing to see Marcus’ passion for choral singing, his nerves and courage and joy 🙂 Plus, the importance of a well-fitting costume!

It’s A Life (10)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. Last week we saw the Roden Boys Choir kicking some ball. It’s time to look a little bit better at how good choirboys really are at the noble sport of soccer. Here we have a match between two of Germany’s finest boy choirs, the Dresdner Kreuzchor and the Thomanerchor from Leipzig.

Now, the reason I was looking for videos of the Dresdner Kreuzchor is a really cool story on its own. A few days ago my choir conductor, who grew up in Dresden, told me he used to sing in the Kreuzchor as a boy, first as a high soprano, then after his voice changed, as a low bass. At the time, Germany was still divided in East and West. Because of his singing, he got to travel to West Germany – and never came back! On his 17th birthday the Kreuzchor got on a tourbus to give a concert in West Germany and crossing that border was, as my conductor said, the best birthday gift he ever got. He finished high school in West Berlin, took up music studies and ended up in the Netherlands. What music can do…

But for this episode of It’s A Life, it’s far from music that we focus on 😉 Also, it gives us a glimpse of next week’s choir, the Thomanerchor from Leipzig. Musical comparisons aside, though, it’s time to… play ball! (btw as a Dutchman I ofcourse have to add that I would much prefer German boys becoming singers than footballers… ;))

It’s A Life (9)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. This week, my favourite choir after Libera and the pride of my country the Netherlands: the Roder Jongenskoor (Roden Boys Choir)! The clips feature mostly singing, which is great as there can’t be enough of that 😉 In between are interviews with some of the soloists and other choristers, with basic questions like how they started in the choir, what it’s like to sing solo, if they play an instrument and so on. Head chorister of the decani Jelte de Jong explains that the decani usually sing the first soprano voice which means they often sing higher than the cantoris. We also get to see footage of rehearsals and the special method developed by choir director Rintje te Wies, where aspiring choristers get a musical training by learning to play the cymbal. I am always amazed at the tricks and turns that are used to get ‘ordinary’ boys to sing like angels 😉 Included in this 20 minute mini-documentary are pieces by Stanford, Walmisley, Victoria and Wesley (a gorgeous solo by Ischi Magna). Enjoy… 😀


It’s A Life (8)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. Actually, I wasn’t going to blog this week but I stumbled across this video which is very appropriate, as my boyfriend is currently in Vienna. So I dedicate this post to him 😀 It’s a clip from 1998 and it’s all in Dutch. It talks about the Vienna Boys Choir‘s visit to the Netherlands for their 500th anniversary. We see the boys arrive, rehearse and relax. Some interviews about being in the choir, voice change and so on. Enjoy 🙂

It’s A Life (7)

Ever wonder what goes on in a chorister’s life when they’re not singing a service? A few Youtube clips lift the veil for us. A short delay getting this episode ready and it’s a small one as well. My personal life is far too eventful lately, so I’m joining these boys from Worcester Cathedral in taking it easy for a while 😉 (by the way, I would love to get my hands on a copy of that film one day).