Ely Cathedral Boys’ Choir offers many opportunities for children to have a taste of chorister life before they try to join. Prospective choristers are invited to join one of Ely Cathedral’s Big Sing events, which take place throughout the year. Possible applicants and their parents are invited to a formal pre-audition, at which point the Director of Music advises on the way forward. The voice trial itself is held in January of each year, and although some preparatory musical work usually proves helpful, formal voice training is definitely not a pre-requisite. What is being looked for is a general alertness, a bright, intelligent attitude, and musicality. The tests include standard ear tests, a prepared vocal piece, reading, instrumental prepared piece (if applicable), and academic tests. Offer of a place is subject to the student spending a trial night in the boarding house.

More information can be found on the Ely Cathedral website.

Watch a video here: “Learn, Play, Sing – A taste of life as a boy chorister”

Conditions of the Award

Applicable to boys entering in Year 3:

1. Choral bursaries initially to the value of 20% of school fees are awarded jointly by the Dean and Chapter and King’s Ely to boys officially entering the cathedral choir as Junior Probationers in Year 3.

There is no boarding requirement for this age group, but occasional opportunities to experience this element of later chorister life will be made available at appropriate times during this first year.

Other than in exceptional circumstances when specific permission has been given, our choristers board from Year 4 onwards. Our approach to boarding is very flexible and the chorister schedule makes it possible for boys to usually go home on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, if they so wish.

Junior probationers have the advantage of following a tailor-made schedule of training. Much of it is independent of the main chorister schedule, but some overlapping is gradually introduced. After successful completion of time spent as a Junior Probationer in Ely Cathedral Choir, these boys continue their chorister progression by becoming Full Probationers when they move on into Year 4. A commitment to the whole process is necessary from the outset. There also needs to be a clear understanding that Ely Cathedral Choir does not exist to prepare boys for any other similar choirs.

Applicable to boys entering from Year 4:

2. (a) Choral bursaries to the value of 50% of fees are awarded jointly by the Dean and Chapter of Ely Cathedral and King’s Ely, and are reviewed annually. The bursaries are terminable at the end of a chorister’s King’s Ely Junior career.

(b) If a chorister’s voice changes early during Year 8, the bursary is retained until the end of his time in King’s Ely Junior. If a boy’s voice changes before Year 8, the bursary is retained until the end of term in which it changes. Any further bursary applicable whilst the pupil remains in King’s Ely Junior will be at the rate of 33% – as applied to former choristers who have progressed into King’s Ely Senior. (*Details of this arrangement appear at the end of these terms and conditions.)

3. A boy awarded a choral bursary is a probationer until such time as he is formally admitted to the choir; the length of a boy’s probationary period depends upon his performance.

4. A chorister who, in the opinion of either the Director of Music or the Head of King’s Ely Junior, fails to maintain a satisfactory standard in his work, conduct or musical ability, may be required by the Dean to leave the choir and the bursary may be withdrawn.

5. (a) When a chorister or ex-chorister leaves King’s Ely Junior he may remain at King’s Ely, provided that he meets the academic and behavioural requirements of King’s Ely Senior.

(b) Former choristers are eligible for a King’s Ely Senior bursary as described in the Note below.

6. All choristers are required

i) to learn at least one musical instrument;

ii) to have individual singing lessons;

iii) to receive instruction in the theory of music.

(Fees are payable for (i) above. We aim to provide (ii) free of charge but this may not always be possible. (iii) is provided free of charge to all choristers.)

(c) Choristers of sufficient ability and experience are expected to participate in choir tours both overseas and in the UK at the invitation of the Director of Music; ample notice of tours is always given in writing.

7. (a) Choristers have the following holidays:

Christmas: From the evening of December 25th to the beginning of the Lent term.

Easter: When Easter falls early in the School holidays, Choristers are free from the end of Evensong on Easter Day to the beginning of the Summer Term. When Easter falls late in the School holidays, Choristers are usually required to return to Ely on the Tuesday of Holy Week and are free to resume their holidays after Evensong on Easter Day.

Summer: As for the rest of the School.

(b) At half term the choristers are normally required to return early in order to rehearse and sing the Sunday services at the end of the holiday period.

(c) Choristers may not be removed from the choir at times other than School holidays without the prior written permission of both the Dean and the Head of King’s Ely Junior.

8. A chorister or his parents may not enter into an external singing agreement without the prior written agreement of the Dean and Head of King’s Ely Junior; fees earned under such an agreement shall be divided equally between the chorister and the Cathedral Chapter.

9. Both parents (or guardians) of intending choristers are required to sign and return the form attached to these conditions signifying their acceptance of them before their son joins the choir as a probationer.

10. Failure to comply with these conditions may result in the chorister being required to leave the Choir, or to the loss of the bursary, in whole or in part.

11. (a).These conditions may be amended by the Cathedral Chapter, in consultation with the Head of King’s Ely Junior, as they consider necessary.

(b) Notice of an amendment will be given on or before the first day of a school term and the amendment will come into effect on the first day of the next following school term.

* NOTE

King’s Ely Senior Bursaries for former Choristers

(a) The Governors of King’s Ely operate a Bursary scheme for former choristers of Ely Cathedral, amounting to 33% of day or boarding fees, whilst a pupil at the school.

(b) All former choristers entering King’s Ely Senior are eligible for nomination for a Senior School Bursary by the Dean and Head of King’s Ely Junior jointly. Nomination is dependent upon the likelihood of the boy satisfying the terms of paragraph (c) below and on the former chorister fulfilling chorister duties until voice change or the end of Year 8 in King’s Ely Junior.

(c) The value of the bursary is 33% of the current appropriate King’s Ely Senior school fee and is tenable, subject to continued satisfactory progress and behaviour, throughout the former chorister’s time in King’s Ely Senior. Maintaining satisfactory progress includes making a significant contribution to the Music Department.

(d) Holders of such Bursaries remain eligible for academic or music scholarships, which are awarded after a competitive examination in the Lent term of each year. However, the monetary value of any scholarship awarded will be included as part of the ex-chorister bursary, which, at 33% of the boarding or day fee is well in excess of the School’s maximum scholarship of 10% of the day fee. In qualifying cases, a pupil’s fees may be further subsidised by additional, means-tested bursary funding.

(e) Application forms for Choristers’ Bursaries and for the Scholarship Examination are available from the Head of Admissions.