Choirboys desert for lure of the Gameboy

CHOIR SCHOOLS are finding choristers harder to recruit as children are lured away by modern distractions such as computer games, headteachers said yesterday.

Chris Brown, head of Norwich School and chairman of the Choir Schools Association (CSA), told its annual conference that the decline in singing in school and the drop in regular church-going also made recruitment more difficult.

In 1997, 521 children tried for 200 places in the association's 40 schools. In 1986, there were 679 candidates for 191 places.

Girls seem to be more eager to become choristers than boys, although only five schools - Salisbury, Wells, Exeter, York and Ripon - admit them in such a role. There were 96 candidates last year for 25 vacancies for girls. Other cathedrals, such as Norwich, Rochester, Bristol and Wakefield, have girls' choirs but they are not offered singing places at the schools.

Mr Brown told choir-school heads at St Paul's Cathedral School in London: "There are other distractions for young people; they are less used to singing in school yet more music of all kinds is available to them at every turn. Fewer families regularly go to church and the commitments expected of choristers are considerable.

"To meet the challenges of recruitment in an increasingly secular society... choir-school heads and cathedral foundations must do all in their power to draw attention to what is offered and to encourage singing."

Richard Shephard, head of the Minster School in York and the association's treasurer, said: "Before the last war, queues of hopeful parents and children used to wind down Deangate in York when the chorister trials were on. The situation nationally for chorister recruitment is not so brilliant." He said computer games were partly to blame.

Both he and Mr Brown emphasised, however, that although the competition for places had dropped, the quality of choirs was higher.

Mr Brown said people feared that they would not be able to afford the fees for their children, but bursaries from schools and the Government meant many choristers had all their fees paid and most had at least half paid. The average cost of a chorister's tuition and accommodation at CSA schools is pounds 1,900 a term. But cathedrals help with funds for scholarships from the Dean and Chapter, and the Government offers pounds 120,000 a year for means-tested bursaries.

A spokeswoman for the CSA said: "Figures suggest that only six children were lost to the system last year because there was no way the money could be found. But that is still six too many."

Stephen Oliver, precentor of St Paul's Cathedral, said the standard of choral music was higher than at any time in living memory, thanks in part to broadcasts on television and radio.

"Thirty years ago, the choristers practised singing and music but there was little rehearsal. Today there is much more rehearsal to reach such high standards."

The tradition of male choirs stretches back more than 400 years. The addition of females voices is relatively new, but the lack of funding, pressures of the national curriculum and a demand for equal opportunities have forced them to admit increasing numbers of girls.

However, even where girls have been allowed in, they rarely sing with the boys, but in separate choirs at separate services, due to a received wisdom that boys perform less well in front of the opposite sex. St Mary's Cathedral choir in Edinburgh is a rare exception in blending the two since 1978.

There are both state and independent schools within the CSA. Some are preps catering for children from seven to thirteen, and most include children outside their choirs; Westminster Abbey Choir School is the only one just for choristers.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all