Boys first sang in Wells Cathedral in the year 909, and the Cathedral School was established the same year. In 1994 girls joined the choral foundation for the first time. Today the choir consists of 18 boys and 18 girls, alongside 12 professional male singers, the ‘Vicars Choral’, who are all trained by the country’s leading music schools and have been selected by competitive audition. Many appear in music festivals and concerts around the world when not singing in the cathedral.
At Wells these professional cathedral choir singers are required to live in houses on Vicars' Close. The Vicars' Close with its elegant old houses, enjoys the reputation of being one of Europe’s oldest medieval streets, and adds to the beauty of the city.
In common with other cathedral choirs, all of our young choristers are engaged in a rigorous programme of more than 20 hours a week of rehearsing and performing, often seven days a week in term-time, with sessions before and after most school days. Boys and girls usually sing separately alongside the Vicars Choral for each of the Cathedral’s nine weekly sung services, but all join together for larger services, events, and tours, several times a year. Both girls and boys generally leave the choir at the end of year nine and may continue their musical training in other ways.
Singing and making music is an activity that is uniquely rewarding, and which also contributes to educational achievement. We audition children from the age of seven or eight onwards, who may have no musical training and few signs of any particular ability, but who have the ‘spark’ of raw potential. Despite the demands of this apparently onerous training, we can truthfully say that children with natural musical ability will throw themselves into the process with a joy that is moving to witness.