For more than 125 years, the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral has been a key part in the religious and musical life of Melbourne, enjoying and perpetuating a long tradition of musical excellence.
Founded in 1888, some three years before the opening of the Cathedral, the Choir took up temporary lodging at All Saints’ Church, St Kilda, while the new Cathedral building was completed. Boys and men were recruited and, after three years’ training, on 22 January 1891 the Choir led the music for the consecration of the new Cathedral.
On 12 February 2016, in the 125th anniversary year of the consecration of the Cathedral, the girls’ voices of the Cathedral Choir were established. The choir of boys and men consists of 18 boys and 16 gentlemen. The girls’ voices of the Cathedral choir consist of 18 girls, eight women and 16 men.
During school term, the boys and girls share in singing the 10.30am Choral Eucharist on Sundays and Sunday Choral Evensong, as well as Evensong during the week, on Tuesdays to Fridays at 5.10pm.
The Choir is involved in many major diocesan and civic services. The Choir is renowned for its carol services at Advent and Christmas, as well as its Easter services, and has maintained a tradition of singing John Stainer’s Passion Oratorio The Crucifixion every Good Friday since 1891.
The Choir’s repertoire is large and varied, ranging from the thirteenth century to composers such as Tallis, Gibbons, Byrd, Purcell, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Stanford, Elgar, Sumsion, and Rutter, as well as works written or arranged by contemporary composers, including former Cathedral Organist and Choir Director, Dr June Nixon, and present Director of Music, Mr Philip Nicholls.
How to join the Cathedral Choir
Members of the Cathedral Choir play an active part in an outstanding program of music training. St Paul’s Cathedral has two treble voices: our established boys’ voices, and our new girls’ voices.
Prospective Boy choristers are recruited from Trinity Grammar School, Kew, the Cathedral Boys’ Choir School for more than 70 years. Prospective Girl choristers are recruited from Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School, Essendon, our new Girls’ Choir School. Both boys and girls receive a Cathedral Scholarship to enable them to pursue their vocal or instrumental training.
Students’ choir commitments are carefully planned to leave time for school, sport and other activities. The intellectual discipline and training of the choir provide a firm foundation for academic success. Boys and girls make new friends, and develop responsibility, leadership, teamwork and time management. They will develop an awareness of adult professional standards, and of glorious music, words and architecture.
It is a training which sets a chorister up for life, in whatever field she or he may eventually choose. Boys and girls between eight-and-a-half and ten-and-a-half years old enrolled at our Choir Schools are eligible to apply. They need not come from families who belong to the Anglican Church.
Entrance to the Choir is via musical test at the Cathedral. The quality of a treble voice or their ability to read music are not important, as these skills are developed as part of the Choir education. Rather, they are expected to have a musical ear and a good sense of rhythm. After passing the musical test, they have an opportunity to meet the Dean or the Precentor and begin a probationary period. At the end of that period, they will be formally admitted to the Choir and will be offered a vocal scholarship.
With the approval of the Dean trebles may choose to remain at their State Schools rather than join the Cathedral Choir School. The scholarship scheme does not apply in such cases.
The Lay Clerks
There are occasional vacancies among the adult voices of the Choir. St Paul’s has both male and female lay clerks: men sing at all services, women sing with men as part of the adults’ voices, and with the girls’ voices of the Cathedral Choir. Applicants must be able to read music at sight. For more information, please contact the Director of Music.