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BOYS AND THEIR PARENTS

What is it like to be a chorister parent?

Every chorister parent will have a different story to tell in answer to that question but I am sure they would all agree on one thing - it is an amazing experience, full of opportunities and experiences you will never forget, and even though it might mean making some adjustments to family life, it's well worth it and something you won't regret.

We have been fortunate to see our two boys become choristers since we moved to Ely four years ago. Alex joined when he was in Year 6 and Jamie in Year 4 and I think we would all say that it has been the best thing that could have happened for them.... and for us!

Whenever I tell people what the boys do, the questions that always get asked are 'But doesn't that mean they have to board? How do you cope? Don't you miss them?'

Yes, they do have to board - but it really works for them. They lead busy lives with school, rehearsals, services and concerts. Ferrying them to and from all of these would be a complete nightmare - for all of us. Naturally, when making our decision for our sons to join the choir, we had a few concerns about delegating some of our parental responsibilities. However, these were soon dispelled as the Choir House staff are all amazing in the way that they ensure the boys are extremely well cared for in every respect. In fact it's the not just the Choir House staff - many who support them at the cathedral and school play an important role in the lives of the boys.

Do we miss them? Yes and No. In Choir House, they are with their friends, doing their homework together, playing pool and table tennis, all practising their instruments at the same time and enjoying meal times with each other. Our boys say that boarding is just like 'one big sleep-over'. They love it and if they're happy, we're happy. From our perspective, we don't have to nag them to do their homework, pester them to do their music practice or persuade them to get to bed at a reasonable time - we certainly don't miss that! We know they're happy and well looked after and they can call home any time they want, although interestingly they usually only call when they want something! We enjoy spending time with them and hearing all their news either on trips into town during the week or at the weekends. And it's difficult to describe the amazing sense of pride we feel when we see and hear them perform at Evensong or services and concerts at Christmas or Easter.

Becoming a chorister gives the boys an extended family. They suddenly have up to 21 brothers (both younger and older) and learn to live together coping with each other's differences - a great preparation for life. They work hard as a team and their combined voices are enjoyed and appreciated by so many people. But it's not just the boys. We too as parents join an extended family: we've become great friends with other parents and meet socially at various events: Christmas, Easter, cricket matches and barbecues as well as the huddle around the heater after Evensong in the winter as we wait for the boys to emerge from the practice room. We are all able to support each other in the same way that the boys do.

There is no doubt that under the watchful eye of the Director of Music at the Cathedral and his team of music staff, they are given an amazing musical education, but there are many other benefits too. The confidence they acquire is huge: performing for large audiences in the Cathedral, or appearances on TV and the radio are everyday life for them. Other opportunities have also been great for our boys: tours to Norway and France or singing solos from the West Tower in a magical candlelit Advent Service - these are just a few of their highlights. It all adds to their wider education, learning about a disciplined way of life well beyond the singing. As we watch our eldest son move through Senior School at King's Ely, we can see just how his time in the choir has stood him in good stead for all he is doing now and will go on to do in the future.

We knew our boys could sing, but had no idea that they had the potential to become choristers. Looking back, we are so glad that when it was suggested they might like to audition, we did not hesitate to find out a little more and to take up the opportunity. So, if your son enjoys singing, we would strongly encourage you to do the same - come along to an open event or contact the Cathedral - you just never know what might be possible!

Becky Layfield - Chorister parent 2010 - 2016.