BBC Crown for ex-Christ Church Chorister!

Many congratulations to former Christ Church Cathedral chorister, 14 year-old Alexander Olleson, who was crowned BBC Young Chorister of the Year in December. Well done also to Josie Sim, a Lichfield Cathedral chorister who was awarded the Highly Commended trophy. Applause too for the other finalists: Sebastian Carrington (Coventry Cathedral), Leah Radcliffe from Co Down, Ruby Skilbeck (Head Chorister at Guildford Cathedral) and Charlie Truman (Wakefield Cathedral). Thanks to collaboration between BBC’s Radio Two and Songs of Praise it was a joy to be able to see as well as hear their wonderful performances!

Clare James, CCCS Registrar reports:

Staff at Christ Church Cathedral School (CCCS) were thrilled that Alexander, who joined Bedford School on a music scholarship in September, had gained the recognition he deserves. Headmaster Richard Murray said: “This title is a great credit to the many years of hard work Alexander has put into his singing – the daily morning rehearsals at 8.00 am and the seven services-a-week in the Cathedral. All these will have helped to shape his incomparable voice.  He is also extremely modest, and so would not say it himself, but no one deserves this more.”

Songs of Praise host, Aled Jones, who sang his famous “Walking in the Air” when he wasn’t much younger than Alexander, described him as “the coolest choir boy in the world” and “the chorister I wish I’d been”. He said: “I’m so glad you weren’t around when I was a boy otherwise I wouldn’t have had a career!” Alexander said after the final: “It took a day or two for it to sink in…You can have confidence in yourself when Aled Jones praises you”.

The battle of the hair!

But it wasn’t just Alexander’s voice which invited comment from Aled Jones: “I love the fact that he has this funky hair”. Alexander loves his hair, too, and during his time at Christ Church Cathedral School resisted repeated requests to have it cut. “We kept getting nudged by Matron who would ask whether it was going to happen,” he said. “We just ignored it and about two years ago she gave up.”

John Robson, Alexander’s Housemaster at CCCS, said: “Alexander remains the only boy in the last 15 years whose long hair was intact upon his departure in Year 8. Alexander skilfully used tact, charm and evasion to persevere until the end.” Alexander was also an enthusiastic participant in the end of year Choir cricket match. “He propelled his team to victory one year by catching out the Headmaster in very short order,” he said.

Alexander, whose father was also a Chorister at Christ Church, said his five years’ experience of being a Chorister at Christ Church, which included doing recordings and going on international tours, gave him the confidence to enter the competition. “Without a doubt I wouldn’t have been good enough to go for this if I hadn’t had the musical training at Christ Church,” he said.

An outstanding chorister

Professor Steven Grahl, Organist at Christ Church, said: “I am delighted by Alexander’s success. He was an outstanding member of the Christ Church Choir, and this award is richly deserved.”

Sophie Biddell, Director of Music at CCCS, said that Alexander, an accomplished pianist and violinist as well as singer, brought “an infectious enthusiasm and joy” to his music-making at CCCS. “Having seen his dedication and talent developing since he first joined us as a probationer, I am thrilled that his mature musicianship has been recognised by such an exciting award.”

Watch this space!

Winning the title has already led to Alexander being a soloist in three high-profile recordings: John Rutter’s much-loved Christmas Celebration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which premiered online on Thursday 10 December, a special concert with the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra to pay tribute to the Oxford vaccine team, was streamed in full on the Oxford Philharmonic’s YouTube Channel on Friday 18 December, and a Christmas edition of Songs of Praise recorded in St Paul’s Cathedral, was broadcast on Sunday 20 December.