Photographs by Bill Bradshaw
On Tuesday 24 September, we were honoured and delighted to welcome our Royal Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO, to Wells Cathedral and Cathedral School. The Countess was visiting as part of the celebrations marking 25 year of Girl Choristers in Wells Cathedral Choir.
The Countess arrived at Wells Cathedral School where she was greeted by Annie Maw, the Lord-Lieutenant. After meeting civic dignitaries, the Countess was introduced to Dr Jenny Kingston, Chairman of the Chorister Trust; the Reverend John Davies DL, Dean of Wells Cathedral and Head of Governors at the Cathedral School; and Alastair Tighe, the Head Master.
Mr Tighe escorted Her Royal Highness to the Cathedral School’s concert venue, Cedars Hall. Children from the Cathedral Junior School lined the path and were thrilled to meet the Countess.
In the foyer to Cedars Hall, Mr Tighe introduced the school’s Head Boy, Jacob, and Head Girl, Astrid, a former Head Girl Chorister. The Countess listened to a short recital given by pupils, which included current Deputy Head Girl Chorister, Sophie playing the marimba, and the Cathedral School’s Choralia Choir which includes many former choristers.
Following the recital, Dr Kingston introduced the Countess to Mr Jeremy Cole, Acting Organist & Master of the Choristers; Mr David Stevens, the Assistant Sub-Organist; Mr James Gough, the temporary Assistant Organist; and Mrs Diana Armstrong, the Chorister Coordinator. Her Highness then met the current Head Boy and Head Girl Choristers, James and Meg, who escorted Her Highness to the Cathedral via the Vicars’ Close, closely followed by the other choristers.
The party was met at the North Door of the Cathedral by the Dean who introduced the Countess to Bishop Peter Hancock and other members of the Cathedral Chapter. Dr Kingston then introduced Her Highness to some of the Chorister Trust’s donors, supporters, and Trustees.
The Countess listened to the choristers rehearsing for Evensong and then had the opportunity to chat informally with them all.
Whilst the choristers completed their rehearsal, the Countess met with representatives of the first cohort of Girl Choristers at Wells Cathedral, Ms Naomi Barson-Cain, Mrs Gemma Baker, and Mrs Becky Layton. Her Highness then sat down to afternoon tea with the assembled guests, including the Trust’s former chairman, Mr Iain Ball MBE and his wife, Prebendary Helen Ball OBE. Her Highness was invited, with the former choristers, to cut a celebration cake for the 25th anniversary.
The Countess then returned to the Cathedral where she met with the Choristers, Vicars Choral and Choral Scholars who were gathered ready to sing Choral Evensong. Her Highness was then joined by HRH The Earl of Wessex and the Dean led then to their seats in Quire for the service.
The music included Stanford’s Evening Canticles in A and Walton’s Jubilate Deo. As was to be expected, the choir sang with great gusto and it was wonderfully uplifting service attended by a large congregation.
At the end of the service, the choir processed out to form a ‘Guard of Honour’ to bid Their Royal Highnesses farewell. At the West Door, one of the youngest probationer Girl Choristers, Belinda presented Her Highness with a posy before the Dean, Dr Kingston and the Lord-Lieutenant said their farewells.
It was a wonderful occasion that brought together the musical communities of both Cathedral and Cathedral School. The service marked the work of the Chorister Trust in striving to ensure that no child is barred for financial reasons from the opportunity of being a Chorister, and of course also celebrated the amazing contribution that 25 years of Girl Choristers has made to the worshipping life of Wells Cathedral.
Photographs by Bill Bradshaw