Be a Chorister Afternoon - for children P3 to P5.

Find out what it's like to be a chorister and part of the award-winning Choir of St Mary's Cathedral. 

Friday 15th November, 2pm to 6pm. Free. Booking essential. 

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Being a Chorister - Frequently asked questions 

Being a chorister is a little different to other forms of education so we have tried to anticipate some of the questions you might have in the information below. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you prefer to speak to a real person.  Email Mary Walls, Admissions Secretary or call on 0131 5387766.

I am interested in my child becoming a Chorister. How do I find out more?

If your child is in school year P3 or P4 (age 6 & 7) then attending Tuesday Singing Club is a good way to learn some of the skills of choral 

Tuesday Singing Club - is open to children who are in years P3 and P4 (age 6 and 7) who love to sing; it takes place on Tuesdays between 4pm and 4.40pm at the Song School of the Cathedral.  Based around Choral singing, Tuesday Singing Club is a good foundation for any child who might like to apply for the full time Chorister programme which beings in P5 (age 8) with a Probationer Year (P4) and runs until the end of S2 (age 12 or 13). There are no entry requirements for Tuesday Singing Club and places are free of charge. To book your place contact Duncan Ferguson, Master of Music at St Mary's Cathedral. 

Book an informal chat with the Master of Music at the St Mary’s Cathedral – Arrange a meeting with Duncan Ferguson, Master of Music at the Cathedral to find out more about what it means to be a chorister. Mr Ferguson will be able to answer any questions you might have, recommend next steps and can advise whether becoming a chorister is right for your child. Contact Duncan Ferguson, Master of Music at St Mary's Cathedral. 

Attend a Be a Chorister Afternoon – we hold these twice a year in November and March and they are open to children P3 to P5 (age 6 to 8). They run on a Friday afternoon and are an ideal way for your child, and for you as a parent, to get a better understanding of what life is like as a chorister. Your child will spend time both at St Mary’s Cathedral and at St Mary’s Music School. For more information and to book a place at the next Be a Chorister Afternoon contact Mary Walls, mwalls@st-marys-music-school.co.uk

What is the process to apply to become a chorister? 

Step 1 - Apply using our online application form

Step 2 - Audition – Every chorister place is awarded through audition.

When should my child audition?

Ideally your child should audition for the Chorister Programme in P3. If successful this would mean they would then:

P3 –  Stay at their own school and attend Tuesday Singing Club (see above) 

P4 – Become a Probationer – Stay at their own school and attend Tuesday Singing Club, Choral Evensong, and Thursday practice and Thursday Eucharist – all after school. This provides a good preparation for becoming a full-chorister.

P5 – Join St Mary’s Music School and become a full time chorister of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.

If we are unable to offer your child at the current time but think they have potential we will recommend that they join Tuesday Singing Club to develop their skills and re-audition at a later date.

To apply for an audition please complete the online application form which you can find here.

What is the latest point my child can become a chorister?

Because the training for a chorister is very in-depth we recommend that all choristers start when they are in P5 (age 9). However, it may be possible to join in P6 if there are places available. Very occasionally a chorister with previous singing experience might join after P6

Does my child have to play an instrument?

We look for a quick mind, a good sense of pitch and rhythm and a clear voice and although applicants do not have to have any experience of singing in a choir, they will usually have had some experience of learning a musical instrument.    

Does my child have to have any singing experience?

No but they should really enjoy their singing.

Does my child need to be able to read music?

No, they will be taught this.

Do we need to commit to the full five years?

The chorister programme is intensive and as a member of a professional choir each child plays an important role which develops with age and experience. In their final year they will become a Senior Chorister which gives further opportunities for solo singing.  For this reason we hope that every child stays with us for the full duration.

What happens at the end of the five years?

Your child can either apply to another school  - (many have successfully won music scholarships at independent schools), or they can apply to audition for an instrumental place at St Mary’s Music School. This could include either singing or composition as a first study option.

What kind of academic education will my child receive?

Your child will become a pupil of St Mary’s Music School during their time as a chorister. All their academic lessons take place in school and they benefit from the same small class sizes and individual attention as our instrumental pupils. The curriculum follows the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. During the primary years they will be in a composite class. The school’s academic results are consistently excellent. You can find out more here.

Is learning support available?

Yes. Our support for learning is exceptional and our dedicated staff provide additional support as required.

Do the entry requirements for being a chorister include an academic assessment?

No. Our entry requirements are based purely on singing ability and potential however we will need to discuss any specific learning requirements with you so that we can make sure we can fully meet the needs of your child.

Do I or my child need to be religious?

No. The Chorister programme is non-denominational and we accept applications from children of all faiths and none.

Will my child have to learn an instrument?

Yes. Because your child will be part of St Mary’s Music School they will be expected to learn an instrument and take part in some musical activities. However there does not need to be a significant focus on this and as learning music provides a range of additional benefits for learning and child development it should not be seen as a deterring factor.

Can my child board at St Mary’s Music School?

Unfortunately we only have day places available for choristers.

What kind of careers do choristers go on to do?

The majority of our choristers go on to higher education after finishing their secondary study. Some opt to study music and others choose a range of other subjects. For the vast majority though, the chorister training is so exceptional that singing and music tends to be a significant factor throughout their adult lives. Take a look at what Alastair Cook, Captain of the England cricket team and TV personality and broadcaster Alexander Armstrong have to say about their own experiences of being a chorister.

How much does it cost?

You can find the fees for this academic year here. However each place receives a 50% bursary from the Cathedral. There are also a limited number of Aided Places available provided by the Scottish Government, which means that how much you pay is based on your household income.

The maximum fee for a Junior Chorister for academic year 2019/20 therefore is £5341and for a Senior Chorister is £6718.50. Further financial support may be available.

 

Instrumental Learning

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St Mary’s Music School is one of the nine specialist Music and Dance Schools the UK (and the only one in Scotland)  funded by the UK Government and providing the finest training in Britain. It is a co-educational, non-denominational specialist music school, offering a world class standard of music and academic education to musically gifted children aged 9-19 years. It is also the Choir School of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. It attracts day and boarding pupils from across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe and internationally. 

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