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Christ Church Cathedral School: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Sarah Meyrick, posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Here's a door you might not know about... though the crest over the lintel means it's immediately recognisable as part of Christ Church. Any ideas?

Christ Church Cathedral School front door in the snow by Paddy WatsonWell, it's the front door of the Cathedral Choir School. There’s been a Choir School at Christ Church since the sixteenth century when King Henry VIII made provision for a number of boy choristers and a schoolmaster. But even before that there was a choir, under the direction of the famous Tudor composer John Taverner, who served as Cardinal Wolsey's Master of the Music.

From this royal beginning came the present school, now housed over the road from Christ Church Cathedral, in Brewer Street. The school took up residence here in the nineteenth century during the Deanship of Dean Liddell, father of the famous Alice. Local residents are used to seeing the boys process over St Aldate's four times a day in their distinctive black gowns and Canterbury caps.

So what goes on behind this door? In many ways, it's a school like any other. Not all the children who attend the school are cathedral choristers. But sixteen of them have that extra dimension to their life. To be a chorister in one of England’s magnificent cathedrals is an unforgettable experience. Many of today’s best-known musicians started their education as choristers. The boys learn discipline and professionalism as well as musicianship. This year the choir will be singing for the first time under their new Director of Music, Steven Grahl.

For the choristers, this is an action-packed time of year. While other children are anticipating the Christmas holidays, our choristers know they have to wait a little longer. The Cathedral Choir has a number of very special services to sing, alongside sell-out concerts to perform in both London and Oxford.

The choir has long enjoyed a high reputation, and has won awards for many of its recordings. In recent years, they have appeared on the award-winning TV series Big Bangs, presented by Howard Goodall, himself a graduate of Christ Church. It's also Christ Church Cathedral Choir you can hear singing Howard Goodall's theme tunes to Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley, which were written by another Christ Church graduate, one Richard Curtis. Other famous musicians with Christ Church connections include the eminent 20th century composer Sir William Walton, a one-time chorister, and the conductor Sir Adrian Boult. 

The Cathedral is lucky enough to have four choirs. The Cathedral Choir, made up of the choristers and twelve lay and academical clerks; the Cathedral Singers, our dedicated voluntary choir; the College Choir, drawn from students and staff; and Frideswide Voices, a girls’ choir who spend a term in residence with us every year. In addition, we are delighted to welcome visiting choirs in August. All enhance our worship and lift our souls as we sing praises to God.

Sing, choirs of Angels, sing in exultation!
Sing in exultation
Oh come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels.