Making history: Hereford Cathedral Choir to welcome girls

04th February 2022

It is the latest cathedral to welcome girls into its choir, Gloucester and Worcester Cathedral both introduced girls last year, Ely gave their girl choristers parity with the boys and Southwell Minster appointed its first female head chorister in its 1,000 year history.

Hereford Cathedral has announced today that it will be welcoming girls to join its internationally-renowned Cathedral Choir.

Hereford Cathedral Choir has been in existence for many centuries but has always consisted of boy choristers aged from 7–13, together with the adult professional singers who provide the alto, tenor and bass parts of the choir.

This year, for the first time in its history, girls of the same age as the boys will be invited to audition for the choir and receive a full musical education as choristers at Hereford Cathedral Junior School or Hereford Cathedral School.

The Dean of Hereford, the Very Revd Sarah Brown, said:

‘Hereford Cathedral has a long and rich history of offering music in the worship of God and our choir’s singing greatly enriches the daily services. Alongside a full musical education, our choristers develop lifelong skills and have the opportunity to travel widely with the choir, bringing their music to congregations and audiences across the UK and abroad. We are delighted to be expanding these opportunities by increasing our number of chorister places and welcoming girls to join us this year.’

Scholarships are available from the Chapter – and in case of financial need, these scholarships can be increased to 100% of the school fees. Applications to join the choir are welcome from potential choristers, whether or not they are currently pupils at Hereford Cathedral Junior School.

There will be a Chorister Open Morning on Saturday 12 March which will give prospective girl and boy choristers and their families an opportunity to learn about the life of a cathedral chorister, to meet members of the cathedral’s music department and to hear the current choristers sing. Places must be booked in advance via the cathedral website.

Canon Geraint Bowen, Director of Music, said:

‘We are very excited to be starting the search for the chorister class of 2022: these boys and girls will make history in Hereford as our choir begins this new phase of its centuries-old existence. We are looking for girls and boys who enjoy singing and being part of a team. It is not necessary for them to have had any previous choral experience or to play an instrument, although that is certainly an advantage: when we select choristers, we are looking for musical potential. It is the training they receive at the cathedral and their commitment and dedication which produces the results.’

The Revd Canon Andrew Piper, Precentor, said:

‘For many years the Chapter has wanted to make it possible for girls to sing in our cathedral choir, but we were not able to do so in a financially stable way that would offer equal opportunities for both boy and girl choristers. 

“Thanks to a generous anonymous donation, we are so pleased to be able to make this announcement today. The introduction of a mixed top line will allow us to increase the number of choristers within the choir and to maintain our regular pattern of daily services as girls and boys sing alongside one another. 

“This welcome development is really good news for the cathedral as well as for our music department,’ he added.

Dr Michael Gray, Headmaster of Hereford Cathedral School, said: ‘Hereford Cathedral School was originally founded in the thirteenth century, or perhaps even earlier, for the purpose of educating the cathedral choristers and it is wonderful that this exceptional musical and educational opportunity is now going to be offered to girls as well as boys, further enhancing the cathedral’s offering of worship as well as the school’s sector-leading reputation for music.’

Hereford Cathedral Choir has gained an international reputation through its radio and television broadcasts, critically-acclaimed recordings and overseas tours (including France, Italy, South Africa and six visits to the USA), but its primary task remains the singing of the daily services at the cathedral.

In a recent issue of the BBC Music Magazine it was included in a list of ‘20 choirs you must hear this Christmas’, and it has also featured on Radio 3’s high-profile programme In Tune. The choir regularly broadcasts Choral Evensong live to a large audience on Radio 3, and in 2017 the cathedral’s Easter Day service was broadcast live on BBC1. In 2018 the choir took part in a concert at Buckingham Palace in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, and also visited Rome, where it sang at a Papal Mass in St Peter’s Square, as well as giving a concert in the Sistine Chapel. In 2019 the choir travelled to Normandy to sing in the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Landings, which was broadcast live on television worldwide, and later in the year gave a concert in Bologna at the invitation of the British Embassy in Rome.