London youngsters sing in St John’s Chapel Cambridge!

St John’s College gets the thumbs-up!

Children who sing in the choirs of St John the Divine, Kennington had a great trip to Cambridge last week when they sang a joint evensong with the choir of St John’s College, Cambridge. The children can’t wait to return to Cambridge for their annual summer school when they will stay in the St John’s College School boarding house!

The children’s choirs of St. John the Divine were founded in 2013 to give local children a first-rate musical opportunity hitherto unavailable to them. Director of Music, Ben Vonberg-Clark says: ‘After recruiting an initial 60 children we began singing Mass every month as separate boys’ and girls’ choirs in September 2013. To boost the start of the project, we used a parish link to set up a four-day summer school in July 2013 based at St. John’s College Cambridge, staying in the boarding house, in which the choristers usually sleep.’ 

The summer school has now expanded to six days and includes Mass and Evensong in St. John’s College Chapel and a cathedral visit. This year we are singing evensong in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban on 25th July.

‘It’s like the music takes me over’

Ben continues: ‘Due to the long-term nature of our relationship with St. John’s College Cambridge, we were invited this year to participate in a joint evensong with their choir on 17th May. This was a truly thrilling experience for us all and utterly unforgettable for our young people. Whilst this was some of the children’s first trip to Cambridge, the majority feel like St. John’s Chapel and grounds are a second home to them and no longer feel intimidated by its grandeur. It has always been our aim to help children from state-funded primary schools in south London feel confident enough to apply to such an institution when they are 17; feeling at home in the chapel must do this cause no harm. 

Under the baton of Andrew Nethsingha

‘After running around the Backs, we took part in the joint rehearsal and benefitted hugely from singing alongside such an experienced choir. Andrew Nethsingha, Director of  Music for St John’s College Choir, worked with us on phrasing, timbre and pianissimo singing.. Stanford in C sounded thrilling on their marvellous organ, as did the anthem  Evening Hymn  by Balfour Gardiner. One of our choristers, Isaac, said afterwards that ‘it’s like the music takes me over’. 

Such a warm welcome!

We were made to feel so welcome, as we always are, by the clergy and chapel staff. The gentleman of the choir were incredibly patient and supportive and the choristers were all smiles and gave warm feedback to the our children after the service. It really was moving to see our children singing alongside this world-famous choir on an equal footing. We will never forget this service and hope very much that it is the first of a more regular feature in the calendar.’