Many schools across Britain have worked incredibly hard to rejoice in the countdown to Christmas this year, says Fay Crampin.
There is nothing more festive than sitting in a softly lit cathedral waiting for the panoply of a church choir to perform. The noble charm of a stain glass window and the clerical sound of church voices really defines this time of year.
November sees the Chapel Choir at Westbourne House School in Chichester preparing for their annual Christmas performances. The 40-strong Chapel Choir perform regularly in public alongside their duties providing music for the weekly chapel services. Tours to Paris, Rome and Tuscany in recent years have been embarked on where pupils have sung in many prestigious venues such as St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Chartres Cathedral. Alongside the popular carol service at the school, the choir also sings for in the Advent Carol Service at Boxgrove Priory, a glorious 12th-century church in a neighbouring Sussex village.
Alex Dichmont, the Director of Music comments that, “This service marks the Church’s transition into the season of Advent, and sees the ancient Priory turn from darkness to light accompanied by music and readings. It is a very special occasion for everyone involved”.
In much the same vein, the choristers of Lichfield School ensure that the Cathedral rings with the sound of glorious music. From the sparkling candlelit Advent Service to the rousing Boxing Day Carols, children continue to enjoy getting into the festive spirit.
Ben Lamb, the Director of Music at Lichfield Cathedral claims that it is a real highlight is the “hugely entertaining concert with the Salvation Army when the local community fills the Cathedral. The boys always look forward to our annual performance at the Wedgwood factory, when their beautiful singing is rewarded with hot chocolate and marshmallows!”.
Further to this, mystery tours and trips to the pantomime and sledging competitions for all the chorister families, ensure a wonderful sense of community spirit to permeate throughout this special time of year. Even waking up at school on Christmas morning is a thrill, as the boys share small presents with each other before breakfast, before being reunited with their families after the Cathedral service and enjoying another round of present-opening.
Christmas at Lancing College, West Sussex is a real family affair. The famous Chapel is one of the finest school chapels in the world, a magnificent neo-Gothic, Grade I listed building. At over 90 feet in height, its internal vaults are matched in England only by those at Westminster Abbey and York Minster and the great rose window, dedicated in 1978, is the largest of its kind to be built since the Middle Ages.
Every year the College extends an invitation to the local community to attend candle-lit Carol Services and people come from miles around to hear the renowned Chapel Choir and experience the unique atmosphere. The Choir consists of around fifty boys and girls, including former cathedral choristers from St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Salisbury and Chichester. They regularly sing in major cathedrals around the country and in local concerts, and have released a number of CDs.
Many young musicians from Lancing have gone on to take up choral and organ scholarships at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London, as well as Gloucester and Truro Cathedrals. Neil Cox has been Director of Music of Lancing College Chapel since 1978, and is responsible for its exceptional standard. Choral scholarships are offered at 13+ (Year 9) and an organ scholarship at 16+ (Year 12). On the final evening of term there is a special Christmas service at which our pupils and their families, staff and friends celebrate together.