For Truro Cathedral Choir’s senior lay vicar, chorister mentor, and one of its head choristers, choir life really is a family affair. That’s because collectively, Marc, Annabel and Katherine, together with son Joseph, make up the Gregory Family. Here they talk about what this unique life and family experience is like…
Marc Gregory (lay vicar)
How does it feel to sing in the choir with your daughter?
As our son Joseph wasn’t really interested in joining the choir, despite having a suitable treble voice, it was for me a wonderful and poignant surprise that Katherine was able to become one of the first girl choristers nearly five years ago. It has given me unalloyed pleasure to sing opposite her and hear her voice grow in maturity and her as a soprano beyond her years. Two of the most heart stopping moments for me have been: firstly, singing the choral accompaniment beneath her solo in the Brahms German Requiem, Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit, where the soprano soloist floats high over the choir like an angel; Brahms wrote it on the death of his mother. Katherine sang this beautifully at Evensong, but even more memorably at the St Mawes Festival last November when she deputised for a well-known professional soprano from London. (The Brahms Requiem will be performed again in the cathedral during Holy Week in April.) Secondly, listening to the Radio3 broadcast of The Fruit of Silence concert with the City of London Sinfonia during last half term from our hotel room in Venice. It began with James MacMillan’s A child’s prayer written to commemorate the Dunblane massacre, in which Katherine and Helena sang the high-lying duet of the angels who welcome the victims into heaven. It reduced me to tears by the end.
What is the most enjoyable thing about working alongside your daughter?
Watching her develop as a singer, able to give enormous pleasure to others, and alongside the other head choristers Lowenna and Helena, provide musical leadership and be an example for the younger girls.
You’ve recently marked 30-years singing with the choir – How did you celebrate?
Ordered a few 4-pint jugs of Skinner’s Porthleven in the Old Ale House, the lay vicars’ second home!
Katherine Gregory (head chorister)
What made you want to be a chorister?
I’d wanted to be a chorister in Truro Cathedral ever since I can remember. I have always been attached to and intrigued by the singing at the cathedral because of the many services I attended when I was young. Furthermore, since I had enjoyed singing for many years prior, the opportunity to become a chorister was a way to do so at a higher, and more frequent level. Being in the choir it certainly lives up to my expectations, being able to make music at such a high standard while still at school is so fulfilling.
How does it feel to sing in a choir with your dad?
It is really nice to sing with Dad. Being able to come home and talk about music is always fun, and it’s lovely that I’ve been able to share my whole time in the choir with him.
What are you most looking forward to in your final year?
This year I've already sung solos in the Monteverdi Vespers, Brahms Requiem and the Messiah, which have been amazing, and there are a few engagements still to come, like potentially being able to sing Spem in alium again, which I am really looking forward to, but I’m just going to try enjoying the regular services and rehearsals as much as I can until I leave, because that’s what it's all about. After I leave school, I am hoping to study Theology at Cambridge, where I can continue singing in a Chapel Choir. Otherwise, it could be Kings College London.
What have you gained from the experience?
Being a Chorister has made me a better singer, which has given me the confidence and capacity to seek other exciting choral opportunities. My Choristership has also given me the opportunity to sing as a soloist in Truro Cathedral which I would likely not have without it. It also exposes you to lots of talented and influential musicians, who I have learnt a huge amount from.
Annabel Gregory (chorister mentor)
One of your roles at Truro School Prep is chorister mentor – what does that involve?
I look out for the boys’ pastoral well-being and ensure the balance between choir and school is maintained. I’m also the point of contact for school staff when needing to ask about a chorister matter, and for cathedral staff when asking about a school matter. I’ve long been the drama co-ordinator at the Prep and this involves putting on several plays or shows each year, including the big Year 6 show which we perform in the Burrell Theatre each summer. Last year we did Mary Poppins with one of our choristers doing a fabulous job as George Banks. Two of our current Year 6 choristers are in my form, which helps me to keep a close eye on things. I’m always so impressed with how the boys cope with their busy schedule of choir and school – they seem to have boundless energy!
What do you most enjoy about being involved?
My love of cathedral music began back when I sang in my chapel choir at university, so now to be so closely involved with one of the finest cathedral choirs in the country is a privilege and a thrill. I met my husband, Marc, through this love of music, and the choir and music remain a source of inspiration, comfort and contemplation. To hear it being performed by people I care about so much, both personally and professionally, young and old, is a highlight of my life. It’s a huge part of who I am and, even though my role is only on the periphery, I am incredibly proud of the choir and what they achieve.
How does it feel when you see Marc and Katherine and all the choristers you support singing together?
It’s hard to put into words how special it is and there are many times when I’m a bit of an emotional wreck! My son’s interests are many and varied, but he didn’t want to become a chorister, so when the inception of the girls’ choir coincided with my daughter (who already did a huge amount of singing) being the perfect age to join, it was incredible and something we’d never envisaged. We read the email on holiday abroad and I remember my jaw just hanging open in thrilled disbelief. It’s so rewarding to see and listen to them both singing together, although I have to remember to swap sides from service to service to be fair, as one’s on Dec and one’s on Can! And I’m so proud of the boys and what they achieve, especially when I hear them singing their hearts out at Evensong, knowing how busy they’ve been at school with lessons and matches and play times earlier in the day.
What is it like living with three such dedicated members of the cathedral choir team?
I’m very proud of what they achieve, and it’s nice that we live close to the cathedral so we can all do our own thing without it affecting the rest of the family too much.