11th October 2021 — More than eighty former girl choristers returned to Salisbury Cathedral School, on Saturday 9 October 2021, to take part in a special Gala Concert marking the 30th Anniversary of the founding of Salisbury Cathedral’s girls’ Choir thirty years ago. They gathered in school, between rehearsals and the concert at the Cathedral, where they enjoyed a ‘back to school’ lunch as well high tea and a celebratory supper after the concert.
The impressive group of alumnae included many members of the original choir as well as former choristers from all cohorts between then and now. Former Head Masters and teachers also attended to see familiar faces and enjoy hearing all the girl choristers – former and current – sing together in beauty of the Cathedral.
The Gala concert took place three decades, almost to the day, after the girls’ choir sang their first Evensong on 7 October 1991. It was an extraordinary moment not just in the history of the Cathedral but also in cathedral music. At the time there were some girls singing in other cathedrals, but Salisbury was the first English Cathedral to admit girls on parity with the boys and to establish an independent foundation to support girl singers. Today, the weekly services are divided equally between the Cathedral’s boys’ and girls’ choirs.
The concert comes just after Clive Marriott, Salisbury Cathedral School Head Master, was announced as the new Chairman of the Choir Schools’ Association in recognition of his lifetime commitment to supporting choristership and choral music within education. He said, ‘It was a real joy to welcome back familiar faces, from my eight years as Head Master, as well so many former choristers who attended our school before my time. It is a real testament to the joys of being a chorister during a child’s formative years in school that so many of our former students wanted to come back to celebrate with us’.
About the concert
The gala concert featured music by Purcell, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Britten, Vivaldi and Stanford, with solos sung by award-winning former choristers Amy Carson and Camilla Harris. The highlight of the evening was a specially commissioned piece by the composer Roxanna Panufnik, who created a new
choral work based on George Herbert’s poem ‘The Pearl’ which was sung by the whole girls’ choir comprised of both former and current choristers.
Speaking about the anniversary and concert, Salisbury Cathedral Director of Music, David Halls said: “The success of our girl chorister tradition has been replicated in cathedrals throughout the country and is something of which we are rightly proud. For thirty years the girls’ choir has been an integral part of our worship, and a wonderful training ground for young musicians. This concert celebrates that legacy and reflects the long tradition of music at Salisbury Cathedral, a tradition that stretches back nearly a thousand years.”
Photography: Credit Ash Mills Photography