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
|Houses||Blow and Purcell|
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, meaning that only choirboys attend the school. It is located in Dean's Yard, by Westminster Abbey. It educates about 35 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 year) and underwent major renovations in 1990s.
The school was inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in January 2011. It had a Boarding Welfare inspection in October 2013.
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 most recent recording is a CD of hymns titled "Rejoice the Lord is King and a CD of Sir C.H.H.Parry's works is to be released on the 28th August 2015, all on Hyperion Records. 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. For 2015 the new Organ Scholar is Matthew Jorysz. In 2009 it was decided to no longer have the positions of Head Chorister and Second Chorister.But since 2013 two senior choristers have been chosen, in 2013-2014 the head chorister was Benjamin MacLean-also Head Boy-and the second chorister was Omar Lingemann. In 2014-2015, Hugo Millard was second chorister, and Dominic Stokes was head chorister. In 2015-2016, in the new Song School, Jeremy Suppey and Daniel Livermore were Head and Second chorister.
The choir has travelled across the world to perform tours most recently in Australia, the USA, China, Moscow, Rome, 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, New York City. The choir also toured to Dallas, Texas, Huntsville, Alabama, Knoxville, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Ohio,New Haven,Connecticut and Westport, Connecticut.
Notable former pupils
- Beans Balawi, actor
- Hamish Sennett, Baroque Cellist
- 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
- Sam Hall, author, former reporter ITN's "News at Ten" and TV-am newscaster, artist & cruise ship lecturer for 20 years.
- David Willcocks, conductor, organist and composer
- Westminster Abbey Choir School
- Westminster Abbey Choir and Choir School History
- A history of the choristers of Westminster Abbey