Inspirational Choral Music CPD Day at St Paul’s

Earlier this month St Paul’s Cathedral hosted a CPD day for outreach practitioners. The day, led by Tom Daggett, OBE Organ Outreach Fellow at St Paul’s and Cathy Lamb from Lichfield Cathedral School’s Music Share programme, attracted primary school teachers, organists, music hub leaders, choir directors and a priest, from all over the country.

CSA was delighted to be a sponsor of such a valuable and uplifting event. Also sponsoring was  Friday Afternoons, who promoted performances of Benjamin Britten’s song collection of that name in his centenary year, 2013, and now publishes annual collections of new choral repertoire for children.

Delegates were joined by a group of Year 5 and 6 children from St Saviour’s School, Poplar, one of the Cathedral’s partner schools. Tom took them through a typical warm-up session. The children had no difficulty keeping up with Tom’s quick-fire instructions, and delegates were impressed by how many elements of singing technique were introduced ‘by stealth’ in the guise of vocal games.

During the session Tom taught the children two new songs from scratch, drawn from Jonathan Dove’s Friday Afternoons anthology. They were soon able to divide into two and then three parts with the audience although they said it was hard to stick to their parts when Tom was conducting the adults. Solution? Two girls were chosen to conduct a group of children each – one found it a bit of a challenge, but the other was clearly a natural!

One of the highlights of the day was Andrew Carwood, Director of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral, speaking about his own discovery of church music as a child growing up in an adoptive family, first in The East End of London and then Harrow.

Speaking about the cathedral choristers Andrew explained how he and colleagues help them to meet the challenges of their busy lives. He said: ‘It’s essential to treat them as adults but remember they are children.’

The afternoon saw the arrival of another group of children, from St Stephen’s School, Lewisham and this time with Cathy Lamb in charge.  It followed the same format as the earlier session, with the difference that Cathy had not met the children before.  They responded very quickly to her energetic warm-ups and she taught them ‘Orford Lighthouse’ by Zoe Dixon, one of the winning songs in the 2013 Britten Young Songwriters’ Competition. Again, this was score-based and the children’s grasp of musical theory as well as their ability to read the text and learn the music through a mixture of aural memory and score-reading was extremely impressive.

No CPD day for outreach coordinators is complete without an opportunity to share ideas for repertoire while Tom offered useful guidelines to help choose the right music.

Drawing the day to a close, Tom said: “This is a really exciting time for singing; our tradition is hundreds and hundreds of years old and it is wonderful for us to be able to share it with so many people outside the traditional cathedral world. But it’s also wonderful for us to learn about what’s happening in the wider world of music education.”