A year unlikely ever to be forgotten

By Dr Christopher McElroy, Cathedral director of music

July calls to a close another choir year. Without doubt, 2019–20 will be a choir year unlikely ever to be forgotten due to the pandemic.
The last three months have been a strange time for us all, but our choristers worked very hard throughout, taking part in daily singing sessions, theory sessions and vocal technique sessions. These sessions were done on Zoom and were led by myself or my colleagues from our homes.
Our two primary motivations during the lockdown period were, firstly, to keep developing the choristers’ musical skills, and secondly to maintain a sense of community with each other and with our Cathedral.
Quite what September holds for the Cathedral Choir is uncertain. Scientific tests are being held in various locations across Europe and the United States to ascertain how choirs can once again safely sing together. We hope that some ‘in person’ singing will be possible during the autumn term, but a return to the ‘normal’ may well be some time off.
From September our junior choir school, Runnymede St Edward’s Primary School in West Derby, will become a grant-maintained school, moving from the private into the state sector. We are delighted that this means that all Catholic children throughout the Archdiocese will now have the opportunity to audition for a place as a chorister at the Cathedral, without the burden of schools fees, and to be educated at our two Cathedral Choir schools: Runnymede St Edward’s Catholic Primary (boys, ages 7–10) and St Edward’s College (boys and girls, ages 11–15).
We have filled all our places for girls in September, but a limited number of places remain for admission into the Cathedral Choir for boys entering Years 3 and 4 in autumn 2020. If you know of a family who might be interested, please direct them to the Cathedral website.
In addition to Runnymede changing status in September, we will bid farewell to Bradley Slater, the headteacher. A South African by birth, Mr Slater has been a passionate supporter of the Cathedral Choir and its choristers over the last nine years. Going beyond the call of duty, he has accompanied the choir on trips to Rome, Cologne, London and other more local excursions. We wish him the very best as he moves to take a new post in Cheshire, and hope that he will keep in touch with the choir.
In August we also bid farewell to James Todd, our Cathedral organ scholar for 2019–20. James came to us from the Diocese of Shrewsbury where he played in several Catholic churches and annually on the Shrewsbury Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. During the course of this year James has been an enormous help in the Cathedral music department, carrying out a wide range of duties. Although the year didn’t quite go as planned with the lockdown, we are delighted that he has been awarded a place at the highly prestigious Royal College of Music in London to study organ from September. Congratulations, James.