More on the clerks

What is it like to be a Clerk in the choir?

Gabriel Vick (Tenor, 2001 – 2004)

“I came to Christ church in 2001 fresh from a laid back New Zealand tour with some of the men from the choir. So when I began proper in my busy first term, I was rather shocked as to what was expected of me. It took me some time to learn how to manage my time between work, the choir and play. At one point in this first term, having lost my voice and confidence, I can remember Stephen personally coming to my room to reassure me that this was perfectly normal and that I should not panic. This was sound advice, as through my three years I grew in confidence in the choir and my degree. Oxford became such a wonderful place to be. I found much more time to branch out and know the University, particularly through my involvement in the drama scene – of which Stephen was extremely supportive (and perhaps slightly proud!). It was through my interest in musicals in particular that my singing teacher Ashley Stafford recommended a course at the Royal Academy of Music. Having completed the course there you can now find me in the West End. My experience in the Cathedral Choir has paid dividends many times over.”

In 1546, King Henry VIII established the Collegiate Foundation ‘Ecclesia Christi Cattedralii Oxon: ex fundatione Regis Henrici Octavi”, traditionally known as ‘The House’. This foundation included an Organist and 8 Lay Clerks, but now consists of 6 Lay Clerks and 6 Academical Clerks which combine to be part of the Foundation. Thus they are expected to be in sympathy with the purpose of the Foundation, as well as fulfilling the musical requirements of the post. They should preferably be communicant members of the Church of England or regular communicants of their own Church.

When can you hear them?

The Lay Clerks take part in all choral services held at Christ Church Cathedral, which are normally as follows:

10.00am Matins
11.15am Sung Eucharist
5.00-5.45pm Rehearsal & 6.00pm Evensong

Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, Friday*
5.00-5.45pm Rehearsal & 6.00pm Evensong

4.45-5.45pm Rehearsal & 6.00pm Evensong

*Monday is usually a “said” day except for special occasions, in which case another weekday service is done without music.

It is possible to combine the post of Lay Clerk with a second occupation or research. A large number of former layclerks have distinguished themselves in the music profession, some in groups like the Tallis Scholars, the Sixteen, the Cardinalls’ Musick and the King’s Singers, and others on the operatic stage.

Bringing Christ Church – Oxford and Musical Magic to You!

If you live in America or Canada, and you are like me an Alumnus of Christ Church or of any college at Oxford, you can’t easily take a day trip down to Oxford to see the place or spend and evening with old friends. You can’t take your spouse or children there easily either. Oxford fades away. As I get older, I feel more cut off from this special time in my life. I feel sad that I have not been able to share this place and experience with those closest to me. As I get older I want to get that feeling again and I want to share it with people that are important to me.

If you are one of the 65 million people in America that either sing in a choir today, or have sung in a choir, you can’t easily get personal exposure to one of the great English Male Choirs. Yes of course you can hear their music or see them on video but how often can you hear them in person? Or even better, how often can you go behind the scenes and be with them as they practice? Or even better how often can you meet them and talk with them about what it is like to be a professional musician aged 9? What would it be like for you to be part of such a musical experience not only to be present for a performance but to get involved directly?

This then is the context for our tour.

We will do our best to bring your experience of Christ Church, or Oxford itself, to you so that you can  have a moment when you are taken back there. When you might be able to offer a glimpse to those you love and care for of the essence of the spirit of that place.

We will do our best to bring a full choral and musical experience to those of you that love choral music. In each place we perform, we will have an open rehearsal designed to enable you to have the maximum exposure and contact behind the scenes. And of course we bring one of the world’s great choirs who will be singing some of the finest choral music ever written. Here are a few of our programs – Here HereHere

If you live in North Carolina, Washington DC, New York, Boston or Toronto – we are going to bring all of this to you in late March and early April.

Before we arrive Tom King, our brilliant web master, videographer and I will do our best to introduce the choir to you. We will post videos of all the participants – the boys, the men singers, organists, the place, the music, the history – we plan to bring as much of the humanity of this great body to you. As I write these words the irony of what I say leaps out. For here is a choir that is 500 years old, formed at the time of Henry VIII, using Social Media to help you find out more about us.

I have myself many stories about my own love of this kind of music. I too was a Boy Chorister – not at Christ Church I regret. But Tom was a chorister. There is something about singing in a choir that is life enhancing. So that we can tell these stories to each other and learn more about how to attend and how to help persuade your friends to join you – Tom and I have set up a FaceBook Group here as well.

Welcome to this special world that is the Christ Church Choir. Tom and I look forward to getting to know you.