Three Choirs choristers join in national celebration of cathedral music

One boy chorister from each of the choirs of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester Cathedrals travelled to London on 27 April to take part in a very special concert to mark the 60th birthday of the Friends of Cathedral Music organisation (FCM) and the launch of its new £10m Diamond Fund for Choristers, which provides financial assistance for choristers and their families.

Jonah from Hereford, Crispin from Gloucester and Wilf from Worcester were among choristers representing 61 of the country's cathedrals and collegiate foundations who joined the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral for the concert, which was directed by Andrew Carwood, and hosted by Classic FM Presenter and former Bangor Cathedral chorister Aled Jones, in the presence of HRH The Duchess of Gloucester. The lead sponsor for the event was the Genesis Foundation.

Music included Allegri’s Miserere, excerpts from Britten’s Friday Afternoons and Ceremony of Carols, Handel’s Coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, Tippett’s Five Spirituals, Parry’s I Was Glad and the world premiere of a specially commissioned work by Philip Stopford. Former Durham Cathedral chorister Alexander Armstrong, also now a Classic FM presenter and host of the BBC TV quiz programme Pointless,

FCM was founded at a meeting in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, London, in June 1956. It has 4,000 members and each year hands out up to £300,000 in grants to help cathedrals music and some churches in the UK and overseas. In recent years, mounting financial pressures have meant that demand for the charity's support now far exceeds its ability to help.

Professor Peter Toyne, chairman of FCM, points out that some cathedrals are facing difficult times with recruitment and retention as well as with financing their choirs. 'Unless something is done very soon the situation will threaten the very existence of this unique heritage,' he says. The Diamond Fund has been set up to increase the funds available.

All three of our cathedrals have been beneficiaries of FCM grants. Last year, Hereford Cathedral received a grant of £40 000 from the organisation. Speaking ahead of the celebratory concert Geraint Bowen, Hereford Cathedral’s director of music, said: ‘This is a great opportunity for Jonah and comes in a year when our choristers have already had the wonderful experience of singing at Buckingham Palace in the presence of The Prince of Wales.' Jonah, 10, said he was ‘really excited’ about the event. He has been a chorister at Hereford Cathedral since 2012, and attends Hereford Cathedral Junior School.

Dr Peter Nardone, Director of Music at Worcester Cathedral, said: ‘Wilf is a great ambassador for our Cathedral Choir and will represent the other boy and girl choristers of Worcester in what will prove to be a truly memorable concert in celebration of this great organisation, the Friends of Cathedral Music.'

Crispin, 12, a pupil of the King's School, Gloucster, said: 'I have been a chorister for over seven years and have had so many great experiences through singing. I've sung in some amazing buildings and have travelled to South Africa, Sweden, Germany and Canada. I've never sung in St Paul’s Cathedral so I think it will be a good experience. This is a great opportunity for me to give something back to the Friends of Cathedral Music. They have supported choristers for many years.'

'It is a great honour for our head chorister Crispin to be singing in this special concert in the spectacular surroundings of St. Paul’s Cathedral,' said Adrian Partington, Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral and Artistic Director of this year's Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. 'He will be a great ambassador for us all here at Gloucester Cathedral and will have a wonderful day which he will remember for the rest of his life.'

A Classic FM YouTube clip of the unique choir rehearsing Parry's I Was Glad for the concert, with organist Simon Johnson, can be viewed HERE.