November & December 2023 – Before planning your visit, please check our ‘Visitor Notices’ for accessibility updates and one-off changes to opening times. Click here to view.
A BEACON OF LIGHT
View from the Lantern: The Cathedral Choirs
This article was written by Ian Roberts, Director of Music at Newcastle Cathedral. It was first published in the November 2022 edition of Link, the monthly newspaper for the Diocese of Newcastle.
For any of us that spend time in the Cathedral, there is a clear rhythm to each day. With an ever-greater number of services and events, Newcastle Cathedral does bustle and busyness well. But as each day draws to a close, the building quietens for what has often been described as one of the glories of England’s religious and cultural tradition – the beautiful daily service of sung prayers known as Choral Evensong. Notable features of this service are The Psalms – ancient hymns and prayers expressing our every human emotion sung in a monthly cycle, and the extraordinary Songs of Mary and Simeon (sung on each occasion to a different musical setting).
Newcastle Cathedral is not alone in offering this daily sung act of worship. All of our 41 fellow cathedrals do similar to a greater or lesser extent. But at Newcastle Cathedral, we do not have one dedicated choir school. Instead, our boy and girl choristers are recruited from a large number of local schools across the city and region, and rehearsal time is very limited.
Furthermore, beyond the desire to continue the long tradition, we are committed to building our worshipping community by providing an ever-greater number of musical opportunities to a larger and more diverse number of people. Therefore, depending on the day of the week, a different choir (or section of a choir) sings at Evensong.
If you have the opportunity to attend Evensong (in person or via YouTube), this is what to expect during term time, when the Choirs are in residence…
Mondays, 5:30pm – Choral Evensong sung by the Cathedral Schola Cantorum
This voluntary group of adult sopranos and altos, a mixture of locals and students, sings music for upper voices to a very high standard. This is a very special opportunity for stillness and serenity at the start of the week.
Tuesdays, 5:30pm – Choral Evensong sung by the Cathedral Consort
An important part of our strategic partnership with Northumbria University and continuing our longstanding links with Newcastle University, this group, comprising entirely of students, is perhaps the closest thing to a university chapel choir.
Wednesdays, 5:30pm – Choral Evensong sung by the Cathedral Cambiata Voices
In a ground-breaking initiative, voice change for boys no longer means that their cathedral singing stops. Instead, we now encourage a seamless transition into the Cambiata Voices, a group where repertoire is particularly chosen so as not to be too vocally taxing.
Thursdays, 5:30pm – Choral Evensong sung by the Cathedral Choristers
Our Boy Choristers, Junior Girls, and some of our Senior Girls unite to sing. The service, sung exclusively by children and young people, is often a highlight of the week.
Saturdays, 4pm – Choral Evensong sung by our Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars
A service for those who can’t attend 5.30pm weekdays. It is usually sung by our highly talented professional Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars but is occasionally sung by a visiting choir.
Sundays, 4pm – Choral Evensong sung by Newcastle Cathedral Choir
The climax of the week, Sunday Evensong, is a chance to hear our boys and or girls with Lay Clerks/Choral Scholars singing slightly more extensive settings or music of a more celebratory nature.
You can hear members of the Choir perform at two festive concerts: the Christmas Extravaganza on Saturday 17 December at 7.30pm, and Candlelit Carols on Wednesday 21 December at 7pm.