Making History – Again

22nd September 2021

Gloucester, Southwell and Salisbury Choirs are all in the news and making history.

History has been made as girl and boy choristers attain equality at Gloucester Cathedral and Southwell Minster appoints its first female head chorister in its 1,000 year history.

For the first time in history, Southwell Minster has appointed a head girl chorister.

It had been the tradition that only boys were appointed head chorister, their names changing annually, and each year recorded in gold on a wooden plaque at the entrance of the historical Archbishop’s Palace.

But this year, Ellie-Jean, 15, has been appointed to the position. She has sung with the Minster Choir for more than five years and is a pupil at the Minster School.

Ellie Jean first head chorister girl at Southwell

She said:

“I’ve always loved singing and being a member of the Minster choir. Being part of this movement of change towards more parity between boys and girls is something I’ll be proud of for a long time, and to be appointed as head chorister is a tremendous honour. I hope to inspire younger singers, especially girls,” she said.

Paul Provost, Rector Chori (“the ruler of the choir”), said he believed the time was right for change:

“Our choirs have been evolving over the last five years, since I was appointed. The girl choristers, who traditionally only had a much smaller role in celebrating the Minster’s worship calendar, now share joint responsibility with the boys.

“I’m really proud of being able to deliver this and hope it inspires more girls and boys to be part of this legacy.”

In Gloucester, similar history was made when, for the first time since the choir was founded in 1541, the girls and boys played an equal role in Cathedral worship.

In 2019 the King’s School and Gloucester Cathedral took the decision to offer girl and boy choristers equality of opportunity and financial support. The Girl Choristers was established in 2016 and although they contributed to many of the Cathedral services throughout the year, there has never been total parity – until now.

Since the start of the new school year, Chorister duties will now be shared, ensuring both the boys and girls play a full and equal role in the musical life of the Cathedral.

The Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral, Adrian Partington, said:

“An exciting new chapter in the musical life of our wonderful cathedral is about to begin.”

“I am thrilled that after a lot of work and some very careful planning, we are now able to offer at the Cathedral the same opportunities to girls, as we always have to boys and from this September, the girls will sing as many services each year as the boys, and will contribute, in every way, an equal amount.

Nia Llewelyn Jones, Choral Associate, said:

“The girl choristers have achieved so much since their inauguration in 2016. Parity of status with the boys represents an important next chapter in their development, and in ensuring that gifted young singers of both genders can continue to sing God’s praises as part of the rich and historic musical worship at Gloucester Cathedral.”

The Headmaster of The King’s School, David Morton, said:

“At King’s, we pride ourselves on being a forward-thinking school. We were one of the first British schools to introduce co-education in the 1970s, and it is now fitting that King’s and Gloucester Cathedral will offer both boys and girls an equal opportunity to sing in the Cathedral Choir, as well as equal Choral Scholarships.

“We believe that our choir will be amongst the most diverse and inclusive in the UK to perform at this exceptional level and we are very proud of the young pupils who will lead the way.”

Earlier this year, Worcester Cathedral, in conjunction with The King’s School, Worcester, announced equal opportunities for boy and girl choristers.

The change saw boys and girls taking an equal share in choristership, but also saw girls join from a younger age and, like the boys, have access to scholarships at King’s Worcester.

The girl choristers were established in 2006 and have played an important part in cathedral worship, singing weekly at Evensong and contributing to other services throughout the year.

The announcement last March built on the inclusion of girls by opening up the choristership opportunity to younger girls from this September.

Salisbury Cathedral was the first of the 42 English Cathedrals to admit girls on parity with the boys and to establish an independent foundation to support girl singers. in 1978 St Mary’s Episcopalian Cathedral in Edinburgh was the first in the UK to allow girl choristers in as part of a mixed choir with a daily choral tradition that allowed girls to sing alongside boys in the treble line.

All our choristers give many hours of their time and receive the highest quality training. They make frequent broadcasts on national radio, sing to royalty, make professional recordings and tour the UK and beyond. Most cathedrals run regular chorister taster days throughout the year. Check individual websites to find out more.

Here are a few opportunities.

Southwell Minster: If any boys or girls are interested in becoming a Southwell Minster chorister, they are encouraged to enrol on the “Chorister Experience” on Saturday 2 October 2021 at 10am to 12.30pm or Saturday 13 November 2021 at 10am to 12.30pm. Please contact Paul Provost for more information:

Gloucester Cathedral – Chorister Voice Trials – March 2022
Girl Chorister voice trials are set for Wednesday 2 March, 2022 with Boys Chorister trials on Friday 4 March, 2022. Children from year five onwards are welcome to apply, please contact the Cathedral Music Manager: / 01452 508212 to find out more.

Chorister Experience Open Day – Early 2022 This Open Day will give interested children and their parents the opportunity to experience life as a Chorister. To register your interest, please contact the Cathedral Music Manager: / 01452 508212

Photo: Ash Mills, The Girls of Salisbury Cathedral Choir