Westminster Abbey Choir School
|Type||Independent boarding prep school
Choral foundation school
|Religion||Church of England|
|Headmaster||Mr Jonathan Milton|
|Chair of Governors||The Very Rev Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster|
|Location||20 Dean's Yard
Westminster Abbey Choir School is a boarding preparatory school for boys in Westminster, London and the only remaining choir school in the United Kingdom which exclusively educates choristers. It is located in Dean's Yard, by Westminster Abbey. It educates about 30 boys, aged 8–13 who sing in the Choir of Westminster Abbey which takes part in state and national occasions as well as singing evensong everyday (except Wednesday) and gives concert performances around the world. Recent tours included one to America, Hungary, and Moscow, Russia, singing in the International House of Music there. Other tours included trips to Australia, America, and Hong Kong. The choir school is unique in that it educates only the male trebles of the choir. The school is one of only three choir schools that do this; the others being Saint Thomas Choir School New York City and Escolania de Montserrat in Spain. The headmaster is Jonathan Milton, former headmaster of The Abbey School, Tewkesbury. The organist and master of the choristers is James O'Donnell, former Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral.
The choir school was thought to have been founded around 1560 as the choir boys of Westminster Abbey have been educated since Elizabethan times. The present school was built in 1915 ( 2015 being its centenary ) and underwent major renovations in 1990s.
As a choir school, boys are selected by musical ability. The Dean and Chapter meet the cost of their vocal training and at least eighty per cent of the cost of their education. The regular school curriculum is not neglected and pupils are taught the required National Curriculum subjects as well as Latin, French and Greek.
The choir makes frequent broadcasts and recordings. The choir's two most recent recordings are: Remembrance, with pieces including the Durufle requiem, Vaughn-Williams and Taverner, "Missa Euge bone & Western Wynde Mass" and "Music from the reign of King James", both on Hyperion. The Sub-organist, from September 2013, is Daniel Cook and the assistant organist is Martin Ford and, since September 2014 the organ scholar has been Jeremy Woodside, with James O'Donnell as the Organist and Masters of the Choristers. In 2009 it was decided to no longer have the positions of Head Chorister and Second Chorister so that the choir would be like other choirs.But since 2013 two senior choristers have been chosen. In 2014, Hugo Millard was second chorister, and Dominic Stokes was head chorister
The choir has travelled across the world to perform tours most recently in Australia, the USA, China, Moscow, Rome, and Hungary. Generally these tours take place once every two years. The Choir was due to go to Spain in 2009 but due to the recession it could not go ahead. The choir experienced a choir tour to the U.S.A in October 2014, Singing at Washington National Cathedral, Overture Hall in Madison Wisconsin, The Wolsey Hall at Yale university and St. Thomas' 5th avenue, NYC. The choir also toured to Dallas Texas, Huntsville Alabama, Knoxville Tennessee, Cincinnati Ohio and Westport Connecticut.
Notable former pupils
- Beans Balawi, actor
- James Burton, conductor
- Adrian Cruft, composer
- Brian Easdale, composer
- Clive Farahar, antiquarian book dealer
- William Wallace, Baron Wallace of Saltaire, academic
- Guy Woolfenden, composer
- Christopher Brown, composer
- Neil Jenkins, tenor
- Tim Brown, choral director
- James Wilkinson, author and former BBC Science Correspondent
- Gabriel_Crouch, Baritone, Choral Conductor
- Westminster Abbey Choir School
- Westminster Abbey Choir and Choir School History
- A history of the choristers of Westminster Abbey
- Independent Schools Inspectorate 2006 report on the school