An edited version of this article was published in The Romsey Advertiser on Friday 6 March.
For over 200 years, boys have sung at the services in Romsey Abbey and the line remains unbroken, being handed on from generation to generation. Many families have spanned three or four generations and the photographic record of these boys goes back to Victorian times when stiff starched collars were the norm.
Boys have always been paid for their services and in 1877, the boys were paid £2, 7 shillings and 8 pence which may have been 4s 9d each if there were ten of them. Nowadays, a boy can earn good pocket money for regular attendance and even more when singing for weddings. The line-up of boys has also been added to recently at the Abbey by a complimentary group of girl choristers who sing as a separate choir on the first Sunday of the month. Both choirs join together at Easter and Christmas Day.
Recruiting boys for the Abbey choir is becoming more difficult as many other activities compete with the times required of a boy on Sundays and on two weekday evenings when we practise. However, those who do join the choir, not only receive regular pocket money, trips and prizes, but also a free musical education and introduction to a wide range of music spanning five centuries and using five languages!
Being part of the choir is certainly a team event. When the boys sing on Sundays, they are very often performing music that adult choirs would hesitate to take on. It has to be good too as it is offered as prayer in worship. Having to provide a high standard forms a bond between the boys who support each other and our young probationers (new boys), who are always learning from the older choristers.
The boys regularly act in an ambassadorial role when they go to sing for a week at a Cathedral and sometimes abroad during the Summer holidays. For the first time in many years, we will not be able to do so due to a recent fall in numbers. The choir stalls in the Abbey comfortably hold 10 boys on each side. At present we have 6 boys a side and although these boys make a brilliant sound, they would very much like to have another 8 boys singing with them (as well as playing football before practises!). And so, the reason for this article – recruitment.
If you would like your son to be part of our strong team, receive a good musical grounding, gain confidence and get the chance to sing in the cavernous 12th century Abbey at the heart of Romsey, please get in touch with Robert Fielding, the Organist and Master of the Choristers, who will let you know more about this rewarding opportunity – phone 0787 944 3060 or complete the form below:
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