The Director of the Girl Choristers is Sarah MacDonald, who is also Director of Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge; the Assistant Organist is Aaron Shilson. Girl choristers may be day pupils, flexi-boarders, or full boarders in one of two houses: Year 7-8 in Priory House, whose Housemistress Clare Gorick, and Year 9-11 in Etheldreda House, where Housemistress Rebecca Sparks and Matron (Melanie Moss) are in charge.
Life as a Girl Chorister
The morning routine begins with breakfast (for boarders) followed by an hour’s rehearsal in the Undercroft in Etheldreda House (non-boarders are asked to arrive in the house by 07:45 at the latest). The girls then head off to a full day of school. On Mondays and Wednesdays, they return to Etheldreda House for a snack, rehearsal and Evensong, after which the boarders have supper and homework (called “prep” at King’s Ely) before lights out. Non-boarders go home after Evensong which ends by about 6:20pm, leaving plenty of time for supper and prep at home. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the sung services at the Cathedral are shared between the boy and girl choristers, and we ensure that choristers get plenty of downtime, as well as time for academic work for the older girls.
As they progress in the Senior School, we take great care to balance the girls’ academic commitments with their choristership (for example, Year 11 girls’ duties are reduced gradually as the examination period approaches, and they are given a complete break from singing and cathedral duties throughout the GCSE examination period). There is constant communication between the music staff, the house staff and the school’s academic staff, and the girls’ welfare is of primary importance to all.
How Choristership Works
There are usually between 18 and 20 girl choristers. Girls audition for a place during Year 6. They enter the cathedral choir at the beginning of year 7, and leave the choir at the end of Year 11. Occasionally, girls can join the choir in other years, when vacancies arise. From September 2021, girls receive 40% off the day fees; singing and theory lessons are provided free of charge. Means-tested bursaries are available in cases of parental need, and we aim to ensure that no gifted children are denied this life-changing opportunity purely due to financial limitations.
For further details, please contact the Director of the Girl Choristers:
Sarah MacDonald (SarahMacDonald@kingsely.org).