Monday, September 10, 2007

Notes from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

I’ve gone to several choral services at Christ Church Cathedral already. Some random observations:

It’s nice to have a new bishop who has a reputation for being orthodox very much unlike the last one. Not Spong-burning more-orthodox-than-thou like myself, but orthodox.

I don’t know how much this has affected the running of the cathedral yet. But it was nice to hear a good orthodox sermon on Sunday. And it’s nice to be able to take communion there with a good conscience. I couldn’t do that two years ago.


The choristers are very young. Yes, yes, they’re supposed to be boys whose voices are not yet ravaged by puberty, but I mean this choir looks young even by Oxbridge choral foundation standards. It wouldn’t surprise me if only one (or none?) of the twelve choristers is age 12 yet. And two or three of them look very young and hesitant to sing.

I suspect the choir lost a number of boys over the summer and is rebuilding. They still sound great at times. But at the beginning of their term, they don’t sound perfect yet, which is to be expected.


This time of year, the sun is still up during Evensong. And it adds beauty to the service.

With the unusual arrangement of the cathedral, the choir screen is not far from the west glass door. So on two sunny evenings, the choir has recessed into light at the end of the service. It’s a nice sight.


Anonymous said...


Having been the one to tell you that Bp John is credally orthodox, I'm interested by your comments re: the cathedral and being able to take communion. I assume you're aware that the bishop has nothing to do with the cathedral whatsoever (other than having his chair there)? Also, presumably the celebrants' position (as far as I'm aware, all are either women or in favour of the ordination of women) affects your communion?

Glad you're still enjoying yourself!


Mark said...

I just can't take Communion from a woman "priest." But I can take communion from a man who supports WO. Yes, inconsistent perhaps.

And in taking Communion, the orthodoxy of the Bishop is more important than the orthodoxy of the Dean et al.

I have a feeling I've annoyed everybody now. ;^)


Mark said...

transferring this comment from Rob:

You should know that boy treble choristers in RSCM and equivalent English cathedral traditions begin singing as soon as they can be trained to sight read musical notation. That can happen at around age six - or even a bit earlier.

Training choristers up near age 10-12 is a net loss on a cost-benefit basis. A boy's voice change takes years to settle into a reliable young adult range following puberty.

The ages of the boy trebles at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, is in fact not unusual at all.

Mark said...

I didn't know the choral foundations took boys that early. I thought it was more like 8. I might look into that.

At the other end, I do know the choirs try to keep their investment until the voice cracks at puberty. So considering that, the CC choir still looks very young.


Mark said...

O. K. It so happens I saw a notice at Christ Church today inviting boys 7-10 for voice trials.