I was a Lay Clerk at Christ Church for one academic year, 2015-16. I’d come straight from King’s College, Cambridge, where I had studied Music and sung in the Choir. Looking back at it, it is quite amazing to think that it was only the one year I spent in Oxford, given quite how much happens in the course of a year as part of Christ Church Cathedral Choir!
I’m reminiscing now from a coffee shop in Boston, MA, where I’m performing this evening with The King’s Singers, a job I started straight after leaving Christ Church in September 2016. Having graduated from Cambridge – before I had any inkling that I may be invited to join The King’s Singers – I had decided that I wanted to embark on a career as a professional singer. I have always enjoyed singing in choirs, and my time at King’s confirmed in my mind that I would like to try making a career from it. As a Lay Clerk, Christ Church was the perfect place for me to begin. The nature of the package is such that one gets a shared house to live in, rent free; the regular income from performing duties in the Cathedral; and additionally, numerous extra engagements with the choir, which bring in a good amount of beer money!
The position of Lay Clerk usually only requires him to be at Christ Church in the evenings, for rehearsal and service, meaning that during the day, he is free to take other work. For me, this other work was normally teaching singing in a nearby school, and whenever possible, auditioning-for or undertaking other freelance singing work with choirs and consorts, or as a soloist. During my year in Oxford, I built up work with Westminster Cathedral Choir, The King’s Consort and Ex Cathedra, alongside solo singing too. Into this mix, came The King’s Singers, and after two auditions during the course of my time at Christ Church, I’m now lucky enough to be touring the world singing over 100 concerts a year with the group.
I learned so much during my year at Christ Church – from Stephen, who was an inspirational director, from Clive, who played so beautifully so often, and with whom I greatly enjoyed sharing a cocktail every now and then. Every term, there’d be music programmed which I didn’t know before, there’d be concerts, recordings, or other projects which broadened my musical horizons. And most of all, it was all a lot of fun. It was, quite honestly, the perfect bridge from student-hood to profession, and even after one year there, I’ll always feel a great connection to Christ Church.