Friday, 16th September 2016
I am certain that you will already have purchased your copy of Tatler. There is a very instructive article on which estates are the best for shooting and which aristocrats perform most effectively when presented with a shotgun. Amongst other such vital statistics is to be found one of my favourite annual productions, the Tatler Schools' Guide. Unlike many other publications which review schools, I always find Tatler's write - ups colourful and interesting. In my time I have visited a great number of schools and I do think that, very often, their short pieces really capture something about the school and give a real sense of a school's "feel". Their excellent reporters also have a very keen eye for the quirky and so reading about some of Britain's greatest schools is always a pleasure.
This is the second year that we have been in Tatler. Though equally positive this time, the write - up was very different focussing amongst other things, upon the Cathedral Choir. Our choristers were described as being like "rock stars" jetting off across the world to packed concerts and ecstatic welcomes. The point was also made that there had been a high number of applicants recently.
It's because of this that this Sunday we have seven choristers being "made up". Before I write any more, let me explain that the process of making up does not involve lipstick or blusher or any other such chemical. Instead it involves the Probationary Choristers being presented with their surplices, an event which heralds their becoming full Choristers of the Cathedral Church of Christ, in Oxford, a position which has been held by boys such as those being made up this Sunday since the foundation of Christ Church in 1546. I still find the occasion a particularly moving one; the commitment which those boys and their families will demonstrate is extraordinary and humbling and will affect them for the rest of their lives. Following the service, all the choristers and their parents will return to the school where there will be a wonderful party. It is so gratifying that seven boys will be sharing the celebrations. Perhaps the choral tradition is under threat in some places but here at Christ Church, it goes from strength to strength.
Every year senior choristers leave at the end of the Trinity term. When we come back in the Michaelmas term the choir has lost its senior boys, boys who have been replaced by younger, less experienced singers. It is, in essence a new choir and in some ways it needs to start again. Yesterday the choir sang for the first time since the summer break. It sang Victoria's lovely Missa O Quam Gloriosum, a gloriously colourful Spanish mass of particularly warm harmonies and a ravishing Sanctus. In its ranks were the seven boys who will be made up on Sunday. The sound they made was exceptionally pure and accurate, a wonderful achievement given that it was their first service of the year. I cannot recommend strongly enough a visit to hear the choir during the course of this year. What more uplifting way could there be of spending the early evening than sitting quietly under the warm stone of the vaults of the Cathedral, in the heart of England's loveliest city, listening to one of the world's greatest choirs. Bliss!