The choir at Durham Cathedral traces its routes back long before the English Reformation, more than 900 years in fact. Durham was originally a monastery where boys sang the treble line. Today the Cathedral Choir includes both a boys choir and a girls choir, which, as is often the case, split the services between the two, while lay clerks sing the lower parts for each group. The choristers are educated at the Chorister School, found in the cathedral precinct. In all, another typical English cathedral choir set-up. So… what gem of information can be gleamed from Durham?
If one visits the Chorister School website (specifically the music page), one will find that almost all of the students at the school (far more than just the choristers) are involved in music to some extent. Almost all learn some piano and sing in some kind of choir. I bring this up to refute an argument that has been brought up to me before, namely, that by creating one very select choir within an institution, one denies all the other children in the school the legitimate right to make music to a high degree (being forced to sing on the B-Team as it were). Instead, I have found that having one select choir that sings to an incredibly high standard encourages the other choral groups in the school to sing at much high levels than usually thought possible because those students in the secondary choral groups have a tangible standard toward which they can strive. A high tide raises all boats. This always students to sing in a choir commiserate to their musical abilities. All in all, wonderful thing! If you run a parochial Catholic school, why don’t try this model for your music program. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOOSE!
Here is an archive recording of Choral Evensong from Durham Cathedral. I post this rather than a recording of an individual work because of my love for Anglican psalmody. I hope you enjoy!