THE CHOIR OF MEN AND BOYS
Some of the choir at Salisbury in 2009
Photo: Oliver Parker
The most visible part of music making at St James' is the choir. Founded in 1921, the choir has been constantly recognised as one of the leading parish church choirs in the Midlands. This reputation is maintained by the hard work and dedication of the Men and Boys who sing two services each Sunday, and at numerous special occasions throughout the year. The choir leads the congregation in hymn singing and also offers pieces of choral music during the service.
The choir - and indeed everyone at St James the Greater - prides itself in continuing the 500 year-old tradition of English choral music that is part of both the church's and our nation's heritage. Sadly, this tradition is currently in decline and this is one of very few remaining parish church Men and Boys choirs.
There are two Choral Services on most Sundays. The 10.30am Holy Eucharist and the 6.30pm Choral Evensong.
Between December and February, there are four special choral services: the Advent Carol Service, the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, the Epiphany Carol Service and a service for Candlemas. These are always extremely popular and are firm favourites with the congregation and visitors alike.
In addition to this, the choir marks special church festivals, which include a Requiem Mass on All Saints' Sunday, and a special service of music for Passiontide, on the evening of Palm Sunday.
TOURS AND RECORDINGS
The choir usually tours each summer. In the past the choir has visited many cathedrals, including Canterbury, York Minster, Ripon, Edinburgh, Exeter, Portsmouth, Truro, Carlisle, Wells, Birmingham, Chichester, Ely, Lichfield and in July 2009 spent a wonderful week at Salisbury Cathedral. The planned visit for 2010 is Peterborough. The choir has also given concerts while on tour in Germany, France, Switzerland and the USA. The choir has also recorded several CD's and has been heard on local, national and worldwide radio and television.
BEING A CHORISTER
Boys normally join the choir between the ages of 7 and 10. Entry is by invitation, following an audition. All choristers receive training in singing and music theory by a dedicated team of professional musicians. In return for their hard work and dedication, boys are paid a small allowance, which increases with experience, and extra sums are paid for singing at special services, such as weddings. In addition, there are parties and fun trips, and there is the opportunity for the boys to let off some steam after the Friday rehearsal in the Choir Club.
Singing in a choir such as this is about the only activity where boys as young as six can work at and achieve the same standards and at the same time as adults. The lessons learned by such teamwork will remain with them for the rest of their lives. As well as giving an unbeatable musical education, small Musical Scholarships may be made available to suitable candidates.
The is always pleased to hear from anyone interested in joining the choir. Places are available for Boys as well as Gentlemen Singers in the Alto, Tenor and Bass sections.
AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS
Young Chorister contest
All choir members have the opportunity to partake in the RSCM Voice for Life scheme which gives them the skills that they need to become confident and compentant singers. The diocesan administered Deans (Bronze) award and Bishops (Silver) award lead on to the national Gold award for senior singers. More often than not, our senior boys acheive this outstanding level before their voices have changed. Our choristers are often excellent musicians in their own right, with most of them playing at least one instrument as well.
During the last few years we have, four times, had a representative in the finals of the prestigious BBC Young Chorister of the Year contest. Jack Soars (2001, 2002), Thomas Morley (2002, 2003) and Joseph Judge (2004). Although none of them actually won the title, we are very proud of them all for reaching the final, which is usually held in London.
We have also had a number of boys who have entered during the last few years, and who have reached the semi-final stage. So look out in future years for more St James' entrants !
The normal rehearsals, during term-time are as follows:
- 18:00 - 19:30 (Boys)
- 19:00 - 19:30 (Boys)
- 19:30 - 20:30 (Full)
- 20:30 - 21:15 (Men)
- 09:30 - 10:00 (Boys)
- 10:00 - 10:30 (Full)
- 17:45 - 18:00 (Boys)
- 18:00 - 18:30 (Full)
THE GIRLS' CHOIR
The Girls' Choir
September 2007 saw the formation of the St James Girls' Choir for girls aged between 7 and 18. This is a new venture for the church and promises to be exciting and fun for all involved.
Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings during term time, from 18:00 to 19:30 and take place in the Choir Vestry (above the church hall). The entrance to the church hall can be found at the back of the church, on St James Terrace.
The Girls' Choir sing with the Men's choir at some of the regular services and also with the Boys and Men. They also sing in a number of special services and concerts during the year, including carol services at Christmas and services during Lent and Holy Week.
Like the boys, at the end of each term the girls will be paid a small amount for their work at the church and there are opportunities for trips, days out and other social events.
If you would like more information then please contact the .
THE ST JAMES' SINGERS
The St James' Singers provide choral music at services when the Men and Boys choir and Girls choir are on holiday; these services are generally on the Sundays that occur during half terms and other school holidays. The also join the regular choirs for some services during the year. Formerly known as the Voluntary Choir, rehearsals are held on alternate Thursday evenings and any singer (male or female) who can read music is welcome to join the choir.
If you would like more information then please contact the or the .
There is a Fan Page for the choirs on the Social Networking site Facebook. We're hoping to use this page as a way of keeping touch with old boys, girls & choristers. If you know of anybody who is or was a member, please let them know.
The latest Choir calendar and Music List is available for downloading as a PDF file.