Well, anyone who came to the performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Lincoln Cathedral Choir would wonder why the question was being asked at all. I am tingling still, as I write.
Television shows such as ‘X Factor’ and ‘The Voice’ seem to provoke a strong reaction in people: they either love them or they hate them. Arguably such contests successfully seek out and promote the ‘next big thing’, bringing fame and fortune to an unknown but deserving musician. However, I get the uneasy feeling that this recognition is often short-lived and superficial – a fledgling career built on foundations of sand. One redeeming feature of these shows is that they demonstrate the enormous potential that exists for people to express themselves creatively through music and song. At Lincoln Cathedral we are lucky enough to witness day by day the developing vocal talents of the twenty boys and twenty girls who sing in our choir. Joining the choir does not just rely on possessing a fine voice; the children demonstrate levels of dedication, energy and passion which would amaze many of us. These youngsters (and they really are young, becoming probationers age seven) attend daily rehearsals before embarking on a full day of school lessons, often followed by extra-curricular activities. On top of this they perform at eight services a week as well as other Cathedral events.
Some of the choir’s most conspicuous performances (including those at Christmas and Easter) are given at times when most children are relaxing at home with their families: choristers may have to wait before opening their presents, but they will first have enjoyed the teamwork, professionalism and thrill involved in singing to a packed cathedral.
Those who have read my scribblings before, will not be surprised if I venture on to the subject of money. A world class choir does not come cheaply. We work in partnership with Lincoln Minster School. We have wonderful team of volunteers working for our Music Appeal who raise money to help pay for our choristers.
We want to attract more people both to support and to be involved with our music. One way is to come to concerts, such as Messiah where we attracted a record audience, and also to our choral services. Another very important way is to contribute to the cost in whatever way they can.
We have launched ‘The St Hugh Choristership’ which is aimed at anyone giving a regular donation of over £100. The aptly named ‘Imp Choristership’, a rather mischievous name for a chorister, is aimed at those giving a little less, but again regularly. Needless to say there is hot competition amongst the choristers for this one.
Another side to all this came to me as I listened in awe to the bass solo in Messiah. This was our very own Boz, who had come to us as a choral scholar and then left to further his studies which I am sure will lead him to a rewarding career as a professional soloist. It is wonderful to be able to give young talented musicians a leg up in this way. Inevitably this too costs money; but these days what doesn’t?
But, back to the X-Factor. I’m sure many of those appearing on X-Factor and the like have also spent years honing their talent and perfecting their art, but perhaps our choristers gain an additional benefit from the network of family, school and Church which surrounds them. One cannot help but be moved by the beauty of their singing, but what is more striking is the sense of achievement they gain from being in the choir. This fuels their future ambitions and ultimately provides them with the skills and confidence they need to follow their dreams. Perhaps it is this that is missing from the mass spectacle of the televised talent show. When the lights go down and the crowds disperse, who remains to help nurture their artistic abilities?
Contact our fund development office on 01522 561614 to find out more about supporting the music of Lincoln Cathedral or follow this LINK