Westminster Abbey Choir School
|Type||Independent boarding prep school
Choral foundation school
|Religion||Church of England|
|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 (i.e. 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 every day (except Wednesday) and gives concert performances worldwide. Recent tours include to America, Hungary and Moscow. Other tours have included Australia, America and Hong Kong. The school is one of only three choir schools that educate only the male trebles of the choir, the others being Saint Thomas Choir School in 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 school is believed to have been founded around 1560, as the choir boys of Westminster Abbey have been educated there since Elizabethan times. The present school was built in 1915 (2015 being its centenary year) and underwent renovations in 1990s.
The school was inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in October 2015.
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 John Taverner's Missa Mater Christi and the Western Wynde Mass, which is on Hyperion Records. The Sub-Organist, from September 2013, is Daniel Cook. Since January 2016 the Assistant Organist has been Matthew Jorysz, with James O'Donnell as the Organist and Masters of the Choristers. For 2016 the new Organ Scholar is Benjamin Cunningham.
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 undertook a choir tour to the U.S.A in October 2014, singing in concert halls and churches around the country.
Notable former pupils
- 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, newscaster, author, former reporter ITN's "News at Ten" and TV-am newscaster, artist and cruise ship lecturer
- David Willcocks, conductor, organist and composer
- Gabriel Brown Human rights activist
- Alex Hill Organist
- Westminster Abbey Choir School
- Westminster Abbey Choir and Choir School History
- A history of the choristers of Westminster Abbey