From the Headmaster
I write this week from a restaurant on the Finchley Road in London after leaving a governors’ meeting at another school. Supposing there is no local conflict of interest, it is useful for school leaders to serve on one another's governing bodies. I always return with a handful of good ideas and have, I hope, supplied some.
The restaurant is North-London-ish. Above the window is a double bass; other artfully presented items include a banjo and a drum. Prince’s Raspberry Beret is playing fairly loudly.
Some people do not engage with music, but they are rare. Most lives have a soundtrack; friends are brought together by music; even politicians use it – remember Tony Blair and D:Ream’s Things Can only Get Better. Music has been used to torment, such as in 1997 when Van Halen’s Panama was played loudly to drive Manuel Noriega from his refuge, but it is almost always a blessing. I would rather hear Raspberry Beret, a frustrating earworm, in my opinion, than nothing.
Some religious ceremonies, such as Choral Evensong, are defined by music. In Winchester, it is possible to hear Pilgrims’ boys sing Evensong five times a week (in addition to other services) and more often if one could bilocate.
Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge, writes that Anglican Choral Evensong is to my mind the greatest liturgical achievement of the Reformation, a perfect blend of noble prayer in memorable language, interspersed with the reading of two extended passages of Scripture, all set to glorious music. For example, last Sunday in the Cathedral, at the installation of Rev. Andy Trenier as Precentor (the person who oversees the Cathedral music), we had glorious canticles and a wonderful anthem by Vaughan Williams.
None of this would be possible without expert musicians. A ‘boy chorister’ is in the unusual, near-unique, position of singing alongside, and to the same standard, as adults. 38 Pilgrims are in this exceptional category. The Pilgrims’ School provides singers for two of the country’s leading choirs, and sometimes, because this is normal for us, we think it ‘normal’. It is not. It is remarkable.
This term, three boys in Year 4 have joined the Cathedral choir as probationers and six boys from Year 5 and Year 7 admitted to the Quiristers. Dubbing is when a boy is fully admitted to the choir and receives his white surplice. Four from Year 6 have been dubbed as Quiristers and four from Year 5 and two from Year 6 as Choristers. These boys have not only done something of musical significance, though that is certainly the case – they will also assist the worship of hundreds of people. As with all Choristers and Quiristers, they will make sacrifices, but will have a wonderful experience that will more than compensate. Please do share in that experience by attending Evensong – the best free concert in the world.