Lay Vicar and Choral Scholar roles at Christ Church

There’s a job advert in this week’s Church Times for roles in the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.

The choir are expanding their numbers to 18 Lay Vicars and 4 Choral Scholars, and offer the unique opportunity of professional singing roles for adult Sopranos, Altos (both male and female), Tenors and Basses.  The choir currently sing three services a week on a Thursday evening and on Sunday Рand the role can easily be combined with a full-time job.


There’s a job specification circulated today for two Lay Clerk roles in Winchester Cathedral choir. I’m not interested in moving myself, but I did notice something unusual in the job requirements. It says that candidates will be Preferably educated to post-graduate level.

I’ve never seen this kind of requirement for a singing job before. People are often required to be expert musicians, good sight-readers, and be experienced in church music. Some lay clerkships are also combined with teaching roles in the cathedral school, and as such require some kind of teaching qualification and experience.

However, I’ve never seen a request for post-graduate education before – which is all the more puzzling, as the job spec doesn’t qualify why this requirement is in place. I can only think that the Director of Music is used to witty intellectual conversation in the pub after Evensong, and doesn’t want standards to slip.

Winchester Cathedral/Alto (Counter-tenor) & Bass/Baritone Lay Clerk

They will be involved in the daily sung liturgy at the Cathedral, as well as concerts, and tours. Suitable voice, at least three years’ choral experience and advanced sight-reading skills required. Preferably educated to post-graduate level.

Full details of remuneration and position available in information pack obtainable from: Sue Armstrong, Choir Administrator. Auditions will be held in Winchester on: Friday 7 March 2008. Closing Date: 29/02/2008
Contact Phone: 01962 857219
Contact Address: The Cathedral Office, 1 The Close, Winchester SO23 9LS
Contact Email: sue.armstrong(Replace with @)

Singing with the spirit

There’s a friend of mine – a fellow lay clerk – who doesn’t touch a drop of alcohol during term time. He finds that the booze affects his voice too much. And on the odd occasion when he’s had a couple of pints on a Sunday night, he’s found that his voice has still been a bit scratchy at evensong on Wednesday. So he tends to stay teetotal all the time now.

But in the choral world, he’s pretty much the exception to the rule. Almost all the singers I know enjoy a drink; often quite a lot of drink. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a few medicinal pints after a big service, to help wind down and relax the vocal chords. But I know quite a few folk that take it much further than that. Some will drink before singing, and will even try to fit in a quick couple of pints during a 15 minute break before a service or concert.

Not that I’m trying to come across as angelic here. I’ll admit that I’ve sung a couple of dozen services in my time under the influence of alcohol. Indeed, last summer I turned up for one choir practice straight from the pub following a 7-hour drinking session (and sang like a badger’s fart, by all accounts). But I try not to make it a regular thing.

Generally, it’s not the best idea to drink before singing. A small amount of alcohol can sometimes help the voice. But it’s hard to judge where that ‘sweet spot’ is, and more often than not you can end up having too much. And while you may not realise it, your concentration is affected, and you start making mistakes.

Another friend of mine used to be partial to a few drinks for Sunday lunch, but he often didn’t know when to stop. And by the time evensong came around, despite his protestations, he was usually in no fit state to sing. Pieces he knew backwards were okay, because he would just sing them from memory. But his psalm and hymn singing would be all over the place, as he couldn’t focus on the words. The difference in his singing between the eucharist and evensong was shocking – so much so that people started to notice, and he was eventually asked not to attend on an evening.

Other friends have boasted in the past about how pissed they’ve been ahead of important concerts. Their justification for this being that, in the midst of a large choral society, it doesn’t matter if they’re singing badly. Which strikes me as a pretty selfish and inconsiderate attitude.

We’re all going on a…

Yesterday was the end of term, and the cathedral choir are now on summer holiday for the next 8 weeks.

Not that it feels like summer. It’s been throwing it down with rain for weeks on end, and it’s also unseasonably cold and windy. And there appears to be little sign of an improvement in weather conditions in the near future.

But weather aside, it’s good to know that we have some time off from our singing duties. I can reclaim my weekends, and do all the jobs I’ve been putting off over the last term. Although, having said that, I’m just as likely to miss the singing as well. During the recent half-term break, I ended up getting very bored, and I only had to survive a week without music.

It doesn’t help, as well, that almost my entire social life seems to revolve around the choir people. And without them, I would appear to be a bit of a ‘Billy no-mates’. So I can only hope that at least some of them are going to stick around in the city over the summer.

A few folk – sadly – will not be around, as they’re leaving the choir to go on and do bigger and better things. And we took the opportunity to say goodbye to them after evensong yesterday. The director of music made a bit of a speech, leaving presents were handed out, and quite a lot of alcohol was consumed.

Of course, come the start of next year in September, we’ll be welcoming a bunch of new people to replace the folk that left: a new organ scholar, and various different singers. One much-heralded arrival, however, looks like it might not happen. Rumour has it that one of our new tenors may have received a ‘better offer’ and is currently trying to back out of his contract. Which would be a shame, as we were all rather looking forward to having a full-strength tenor line again.

Even so, the choir still has many exciting things to look forward to at the start of next term, including two live BBC broadcasts, three concerts, a combined service with another cathedral choir, and three carol services just before Christmas. It’s going to be a fun term. Can’t wait!

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