Young Citizens: The minster chorister’s tale

By - Monday 8th February, 2016

So what’s life really like in that vestry? Joel Edser gives us the low-down


“Who’s that singing like a dalek?”, asked Mr Little, looking closely at the innocent-faced boys in our burgundy robes and ruffs.

Just a month before this I was in Year 3 at the Minster school and Mr Krippner, the choirmaster, had given an assembly encouraging us to audition for the minster choir. My dad plays the guitar (and drums and piano and anything else that stays still long enough) but I had never sung anything formal before.

At the audition, when Mr Krippner asked “Who’s next?” I plucked up my courage and actually enjoyed myself. It must have gone OK because I got a letter explaining the commitment and inviting me to become a probationer.

We sing soprano parts from Decani: my mum confused this with Ant and Dec

I started going along on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. In the vestry we get a drink and normally a biscuit when we arrive, then we robe up and make sure that we’re ready to process into our choir stalls on the dot of 4:30pm.

Then there follows forty-five minutes of intense but enjoyable rehearsing, then on Tuesdays Evensong at 5:30pm. On Thursdays we break at 5:30pm with a second practise session after that. I am Cantoris. We sing different soprano parts from Decani; my mum thought that we were called Ant and Dec.

When I was invited to become a full chorister and receive my white surplice, I felt proud and honoured. Now I sing in Sunday services either morning or evening (we alternate with the girls’ choir) and each service we sing the responses, Psalm, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and an anthem as well as the hymns which I’m getting to know and like more and more.

Outside we’re calm but inside we’re on fire with beauty and power

We do medals and have to earn them by improving things: looking at the conductor, clapping certain rhythms, good posture and working out notes.

Sometimes we do concerts and there was a Bach one recently. When we are singing the really heart-pumping pieces we are calm on the outside but on the inside we are on fire and bursting with beauty and power.

In the summer holidays the men and boys’ choir sang evensong at Westminster Abbey. Beforehand I was terrified but it was a special experience to process down the aisle where William and Kate walked, and sing to a packed abbey.

The music has become part of my life

I find psalms the most difficult with their strange old-fashioned words. We often sing in Latin which gets me ahead in Latin club at school. The anthems can be lively and dramatic, such as ‘For lo, I raise up’ by Stanford, but sometimes gentle and sweet like ‘Love Divine’ by Howard Goodall and Hurford’s ‘Litany to the Holy Spirit’ which I sing to reassure myself at night if I can’t sleep.

The music has become part of my life and I often sing around the house. Once I absent-mindedly sang out loud in the middle of a lesson. OOPS! Luckily my teacher thought that it was funny and everyone clapped.

Joel Edser

Joel Edser

Joel thinks the only things that Croydon lacks are a theme park, a beach and a mountain or two. Aged 10, he is in year 5 at Croydon Minster School and spends his spare time devising Doctor Who episodes. His bedroom door is currently a Tardis.

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