Flying through the festive season with the youngest choristers at Wakefield Cathedral's new choir

A child’s song in a cathedral choir can be crystal clear in joyful hymn or as riotous as it is uplifting.

By Ruby Kitchen
Friday, 31st December 2021, 11:45 am

At Wakefield Cathedral, a new youth choir has flown through its first festive season, with close to 30 services having been hosted in this grand setting throughout December.

The youngest ones are Byrd Song, a new generation of choristers aged six to eight, and it is a heartening sight and a joyous sound to see their efforts in inspiration.

To Ed Jones, the director of music for the cathedral, singing is the “most natural way to make music”.

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Kaitlin Thomas 7 a member of the Wakefield Cathedral Introductory choir 'Byrd Song'. Image: Gary Longbottom

He said: “It doesn’t matter if you come from rich or poor, or if you go to church or not, music is for everybody.

“There are few children I’ve met, at this age, that don’t like to sing. I often wonder what makes them lose that love – we need to catch that moment.”

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Byrd Song was first launched in September, the third choir at Wakefield alongside its main choir and another for older people.

Members of the Wakefield Cathedral Introductory choir 'Byrd Song'. Casper Bevan 8, Kaitlin Thomas 7, James Fitzsimons 6 and Sophia Paticio 8 with James Bowstead on the keyboards. Image: Gary Longbottom

Now, through its busiest time of year, December has been in full swing. It’s been “very busy”, laughed Mr Jones, travelling from nativities with the younger children to midnight mass with older choristers.

“They have such energy,” he added. “Afterwards they say, ‘that was the best’. They all come back in January, raring to do it again.

“After all the turmoil of the past 20 months, one thing we have been able do is get together and sing. To be in the same room, singing with other people, is quite an exceptional feeling.”

Commitment to be a chorister can be quite taxing, with rehearsals and concerts up to two or three times a week.

Oliver Powell Wakefield Cathedral Chorister. Image: Ryan Grint

Byrd Song is about giving younger children a chance just to “test the waters”, said Mr Jones, without auditions or pressure, but to instil an early love of cathedral music.

Friendships

One of the first to join Byrd Song was Oliver Powell, aged seven, whose older brother, Rhys, 11, is in the main cathedral choir and whose mother, Emma, sang in a church choir herself as a girl.

Oliver, a pupil at Badsworth Junior and Infants School in Pontefract, said: “I was a bit nervous at the start, but I really enjoy it now.

James Bowstead, assistant director of music at Wakefield Catrhedral on the keyboards. Image by Gary Longbottom.

“I’m still getting used to wearing my robe, but I just really like to sing and have made some new friends already.”

At any cathedral such as Wakefield, choirs are most often associated with the festive season.

Here there is always music from Kenneth Leighton, a former chorister who died in 1988, and who had been one of the most foremost composers of his day.

Inspire

There is also always some from John Rutter, who among choristers has come to be “synonymous” with the season.

“We all have a song that reminds us of something, whether it’s a mother singing to her child or one playing in a restaurant,” said Mr Jones.

“There’s always music that makes us remember all kinds of wonderful things.”

To find out more about Byrd Song, email [email protected]

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