Andrew Carwood Addresses CSA Heads

Andrew Carwood, Director of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral, was on fine form at CSA’s Centenary Conference. CSA’s celebratory Evensong was sublime, thanks to choristers from St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, King’s College Cambridge and Salisbury’s girl choristers.  Thank you and the fantastic team from St Paul’s Cathedral for a truly memorable occasion.

CSA commissioned new canticles from Dr Richard Shephard, a former Gloucester chorister, headmaster of The York Minster and CSA Chairman 1989-90. Richard and Andrew enjoy a quick chat during rehearsal for the new Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis. The CSA Service was very warmly received and we hope will become a regular fixture on cathedral music lists for the next 100 years and beyond!

Andrew had addressed CSA members the day before, thanking the headteachers who make possible the demands made by directors of music on their high-achieving choristers.

Commenting on attracting new choristers he said concerns about recruitment are nothing new. He cited reports by his predecessors in 1896 and 1932 lamenting the fact that applications for choristerships were in decline. Today the discouraging factors include ‘the lust for exam results’ which means parents want to keep their children’s noses to the academic grindstone; the attractions of on-screen entertainment at home; and the reluctance of parents to let their children board (although this is counteracted to some extent by the ‘Harry Potter’ effect).

Additionally, Andrew continued, ‘I am shocked by the appalling lack of music in schools. Children are not experiencing music teaching, performance, singing or instrumental playing, so when the opportunity to be a chorister comes up they don’t have the physical experience to realise what that might mean.’ Finally, he added, there is the cost to cathedrals of maintaining their choirs, especially if they are offering choristerships to both girls and boys.

Any solutions, he suggested, must come from cathedrals/chapels/churches and choir schools working together to develop a strategic approach to advertising and recruitment, with larger institutions perhaps contributing a little more to the budget in order to ensure that the idea of choristerships is kept alive nationwide. Nurturing of choristers needs to be careful, considered, loving and demanding, but it is a great start for children in their lives.

‘If we’re going for world class singing we need to nurture young singers of both sexes,’ he said, concluding that the possibility of introducing girls is under consideration at St Paul’s.