The Galilee Choir

The Galilee Choir rehearses twice each week on Wednesday and Friday mornings (from 08:15 – 09:00). Membership of the Choir is through a simple audition with the Director of Music. There are a more or less equal number of boys and girls in the group and they perform a repertoire of both sacred and secular music. They regularly sing services of Evensong in the Cathedral throughout the academic year. The Choir also perform at weddings and for carol services and concerts both at school and when booked by other organisations.

For School services in the Cathedral, the Galilee Choir combines with the Cathedral Choristers, to provide a thrilling sound.

A new innovation in recent years has been the introduction of Galilee Choir weekends where a Friday evening rehearsal takes place after school before members attend evensong in the Cathedral to support their Chorister colleagues. The Galilee Choir and Choristers all then enjoy eating together in the Dining Hall before another rehearsal. Some children elect to spend the night in the boarding house with the Choristers before all return on Saturday morning for further extended rehearsal and masterclass sessions. After lunch a combined social event is held to further strengthen the bonds between the choirs.

The Training Choirs in Forms 1, 2 and 3

All pupils in Forms 1, 2 and 3 participate in the year group Training Choir programme which was borne out of a Chorister Recruitment Committee initiative, where it was decided to develop further the training of voices of the children in these classes so as to prepare them better for a subsequent role in either the Galilee Choir or the Cathedral Choir. They meet in form period slots during the week and in addition to the more secular repertoire one would anticipate for younger children, they are also gradually introduced to some of the repertoire they might need to sing in services in the Cathedral, including psalms.  Probationary Choristers continue to sing with the Training Choirs until they become Choristers.

The Senior Choir

All pupils in Forms 4, 5 and 6 are members of the Senior Choir.  They rehearse for 35 minutes each week and have recently been recorded for television broadcast in Durham Cathedral.

At The Chorister School there are several ensemble groups who meet at lunch times and are coached largely by specialist instrumental staff in the Music Department.

In this way we are able to offer suitably challenging material to specific instrumental combinations and those who are more advanced, are able to pursue repertoire in its original composition format.

Current ensembles include:

Senior Orchestra
String Ensemble
Cello Consort
Wind Band
Brass Group
Flute Choir

Performing is very much encouraged at The Chorister School and it is hoped that a suitably unimposing infrastructure has been established which not only provides any number of varied performing opportunities, but also encourages children to want to take part.

Proposed concert lists are available to Music Teachers several weeks before each event. Much as the School is always delighted that children are willing to participate, the Director of Music would only wish to include a child with the full approval of their instrumental teacher. Demand for places in these concerts is sometimes considerable. Programmes are ideally arranged to last no longer that 1 hour.

Each term there are up to three Informal Concerts for pupils in the Main School. These take place in the evenings from 7.00 p.m. They include performances by all age groups and at all levels. The sheer diversity of grades and instrumental variety has made this forum extremely successful. It is expected that children will attend the whole concert and support their fellow performers in the way they would like to be supported. Children are taught to present themselves in ‘concert conditions’ – they announce their pieces, bow and acknowledge applause.

Beginners are inspired by those who have been learning for some time, and for further advanced pupils, there is a very rewarding sense of the progress they have made instrumentally. They too can remember being beginners! Although there is huge support and much applause, the exercise is effected in much the same way as when a child is involved in a show-and-tell exercise. Teachers will guide the pupil through every step of the process.

In late January, the Music Scholarship candidates perform a concert of the repertoire that they will present for their auditions. The standard of this concert is very high, and although it is seen as part of their overall preparation, it is also a mark of what they have achieved in their time at The Chorister School.

Another special concert takes place in the Summer Term, in which all those who will be leaving the School are given the opportunity to perform for the Alumni Association of which they are about to become members. Included in this concert are some of the ensembles – although they may, of course, perform at others stages in the year as well.

The Annual Christmas concert takes place at the end of the Michaelmas Term and provides an opportunity for all of the choirs and ensembles to perform festive music for friends and parents of the School. Several well known carols are included in the programme for the audience to join in with. Such is demand for this concert, that tickets are often sold out within days of being released for sale.

In class music lessons pupils are encouraged to perform to one another – not necessarily at the standard which one would expect for a ‘real’ concert, but rather in a workshop environment, which does so much to break down the anxiety associated with performing. Usually children volunteer spontaneously to play to the class.  The purpose of this exercise is to give children the experience of performing in front of their peers and to train children to be a supportive and receptive audience. There is of course a huge variety of material presented and very wide range of ability in these sessions and this is to be celebrated.

In the Summer Term of 2014 The Chorister School presented a concert of Choral and Instrumental music at Raby Castle by invitation of Lord Barnard to raise money for a music school in South Africa.

In December 2014 the fifth and sixth form Choristers and Galilee Choir sang a selection of Christmas music and the Senior Ensemble played at the Living North Christmas Fair at Newcastle Racecourse.

In the Summer Term of 2015, The Chorister School staged a production of Britten’s The Little Sweep at The Witham Theatre in Barnard Castle. The Third Form Training Choir sang the chorus parts and senior pupils took the lead child roles. The adult roles were provided by pupils of Miranda Wright who are studying music at University and Conservatoire level.

Parents make applications for instrumental music tuition to the Director of Music.

Instrumental lessons take place throughout the school day from Mondays to Friday. Every attempt is made to accommodate Sports matches on Monday and Thursday afternoons. All music lesson timetables must rotate and these are devised in preparation for the start of each term by the Director of Music. Pupils are not allowed to miss continually the same academic lessons and the rotation must be adhered to as strictly as possible. Where a pupil plays two or more instruments, this is not always possible, but we do try to have their lessons on different days and to accommodate some lessons during non-academic times.

Music lesson timetables are posted throughout the School at end of each week for the forthcoming week, listing all lessons which are due to be taught.

All pupils must make use of a Chorister School Music Practice Notebook. This is an extremely important part of the communication process between the teacher, the pupil and the parents. It is assumed that teachers will write detailed instructions as to exactly what needs to be done before the next lesson. Parents are asked to look at this book each week and to initial it on a regular basis. In order to keep a record of the lesson arrangements, music teachers are required to complete all details in the Music Notebook. This document effectively records the number of lessons taught, work set and comments to the parents. Properly completed, it averts any number of questions which parents and academic staff might have. The Music Teachers should contact parents immediately when this book is not brought into school for a lesson.

It is intended that Music Teachers will prepare their pupils in all aspects of technical work and repertoire associated with the instrument at any particular grade, and appropriate to the capability of the child. This will include scales and arpeggios, sight reading and aural, which should begin early in the exam process, and not be left to the final weeks.
Some pupils have theory lessons – all choristers and those who might feasibly go on to higher practical grades and Music Scholarship Awards. For all other pupils, and especially those pre-Grade 2, the requirement for some theory will need to be covered by the Visiting Music Teacher. Additionally the Class Music Programme introduces all pupils to the basic elements of theory and composition over a six year period.

The annual Michael James Music Competition is held in the Summer Term and all pupils from Form 1 upwards are invited to enter.

Preliminary rounds are held in class music lessons and the finalists compete publically in three categories: Junior (Forms 1 and 2); Intermediate (Forms 3 and 4); and Senior (Forms 5 and 6).

Visiting Music Teachers are asked to submit entries on behalf of their pupils. A pupil may enter the preliminary round of the competition on as many instruments as they wish. However, they will only have the opportunity to complete in the final round on one instrument (if they are awarded sufficient marks to do so).

An external adjudicator is invited by the Director of Music to offer constructive feedback on the performances and chose a runner-up and a winner for each category. The ethos of this event is to celebrate the wonderful breadth of musical talent and to bring everyone together in music.