Usually things at this time of the academic year are quite frenzied. The choristers are coming out of exam season and straight into lots of end-of-year events at school and cathedral, musical and non-musical. In a normal year, the almost-daily services continue and this year we would also have had two BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, our summer concert and a performance at the Beaminster Festival in Dorset. In the midst of all that, we would have tried to find the space to reflect on the contribution of those leaving our choral foundation – choral scholars, choristers and organists. This year, finding space isn’t a problem; but restrictions won’t allow us to gather, celebrate and give thanks in our customary way.
Instead, we have produced a video which I hope you will enjoy. It charts some of the key moments in the journey of our leavers – highlights from five years of service for the leaving boys and girls, and one year for our leaving scholars and Assistant Director of Music. There is also a message from the Dean and one from me, as well as some lovely music.
Before paying tribute to our leavers, we must take time to thank those who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to enable all of the choir’s activities to take place. We are blessed with a Chapter that is utterly committed to the choir and its central role in the cathedral’s worship and ministry – we should not take that for granted. We are supported by the Choir Assistants, Hazel and Lynne, occasionally joined by Diana; and by our choir librarian Roger. I also want to thank our Lay Vicars – the permanent altos, tenors and basses who are the backbone of the choir, providing continuity over the years – whose dedication and professionalism is at the heart of our house style and the dignity of all that we do. And we mustn’t forget the support our choristers receive from their families whose sacrifices in the name of honouring choir commitments never cease to amaze me; we could not be more fortunate with our parent body.
It is important to acknowledge the central role of Truro School and Truro School Prep where our choristers are educated. Only with the support of their Governors and Heads can we achieve the amazing things we achieve. I would like to mention particularly Andrew Gordon-Brown who is moving on from Truro School to a new headship at Kingswood School in Bath. Working closely with Chapter, Andrew’s vision for what a partnership between Truro School and Truro Cathedral could look like, and his ability to see things on all levels, from the visionary and architectural to the detailed, was key to the success of introducing girl choristers in 2015, as well as to moving the boy choristers across. We thank Andrew for his service and look forward to welcoming his successor, Andy Johnson, in September. Staying with our choir school, I must also acknowledge the tireless work, guidance and support of Director of Music Martin and of our Chorister Mentors, Rachel, Annabel and Peter who are at the day-to-day coalface of managing the choristers and the dovetailing of their cathedral and school commitments.
With all that has happened in recent months, I feel especially sad for our Choral Scholars and Organ Scholar who have just one academic year with us and have therefore lost around a third of their time in Truro. Esmée, Rufus, Ed and Harry have been a terrific year of Choral Scholars: musically outstanding and socially great fun. The playing of our Organ Scholar, Manuel, has been uniformly top-level, from his very first services back in September when he dazzled us with electric performances of virtuosic works by Bach and Dupré, and he has been a pleasure to have in our community.
Similarly, my colleague Michael came here for just one year as Acting Assistant Director of Music and has been denied three months of what I’m sure would have been glorious music-making. In the time we had together from September to late March I have been grateful for Michael’s sensitive organ playing, his work with the choristers, and his administrative skill, especially in overseeing the organ recital series and in helping us take a few steps forward with some of our IT systems.
My last words are to the leaving boys and girls – to Arthur, Finlay, Pax, Ted, Helena, Katherine and Lowenna. Not many directors of music can boast that all seven of their boy and girl head choristers have their ABRSM grade 8 singing, but for these extraordinary young musicians, it is only a small component of what they have achieved. It has been both a joy and a privilege to work with these remarkable choristers, seeing them find their feet as probationers and then arrive as the kind of head choristers who lead by example, inspiring the younger boys and girls to ever-higher levels of musicianship, focus and commitment. They shine as people as well as musicians, and there will be a huge hole in the choir, and in my life, when they leave.
We have been richly blessed with everyone mentioned above and I can only imagine what might have been if this year’s particularly wonderful choir had been allowed to reach maturity. As we celebrate all they have achieved and begin missing them, all we can do is send them on their way with our gratitude and love.