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Salisbury Cathedral School News

15/03/2012

Angelic Voices - The Choristers of Salisbury Cathedral - BBC Documentary

This 90 minute documentary, filmed here last year by Emmy award-winning Cesca Eaton, will be broadcast on BBC FOUR on Sunday 25 March at 9.00pm and again on 6 April (Good Friday) at 7.30pm. ‘Angelic Voices’ spends four months with the choristers as they go about their day-to-day lives, discovering their own history and singing some of the most loved music spanning six centuries from medieval plainsong to today. Under the direction of indefatigable choir master David Halls they rehearse and perform works by Sheppard, Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Mozart, Stanford, Parry, Alcock and Rutter. This is a musical and documentary treat.

Cesca Eaton said, “I was asked by Archie Baron at Wingspan Productions to make a 90 minute documentary for BBC FOUR about the history of choristers in England. Where to start, I had so much choice, and what would my film contain? The original idea to make the film came from Archie, and as the producer/director, I spent a few weeks in January 2011 developing the idea further, contacting the Masters of the Choristers at Ely, Winchester, Canterbury, Chichester and Salisbury Cathedrals. I visited them all, and was spoiled for choice. I could have made my documentary at any of them, but, after many discussions with David Halls and the Dean and Chapter, I picked Salisbury, and Salisbury, thankfully, picked me. Salisbury has it all - history, boy and girl choristers of the same age, a Dean and Chapter who were extraordinarily welcoming, the most beautiful cathedral and surroundings, and, most importantly, a highly talented and charismatic Director of Music in David Halls. The film is part observational, part historical and part performance - I spent from Palm Sunday in April until the end of the Summer Term in July, shadowing the boy and girl choristers as they went about their day to day work. I filmed in the library, I filmed where it all began at Old Sarum, I filmed Evensongs, Easter, the Year 8's final service, I filmed in the boarding house, I interviewed the Dean, the Precentor, the Chancellor, I interviewed the children, David Halls, Richard Seal, to name but a few. The film has evolved into the history of Salisbury Cathedral Choristers - from when it all started at Old Sarum right up to present day. There is music by Sheppard, Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Mozart, Stanford, Parry, Alcock and Rutter. Enjoy.”


BBC FOUR WEBSITE - LINK FOR CLIP
BBC FOUR WEBSITE - LINK FOR FULL INFORMATION including clip and music list
WINGSPAN PRODUCTIONS WEBSITE



ANGELIC VOICES: the Choristers of Salisbury Cathedral
Duration: 90 minutes
Transmission: BBC FOUR: Sunday 25 March at 21.00pm and Good Friday 6 April at 19.30pm
Credits: Director/Producer/Editor: CESCA EATON
Executive Producer: ARCHIE BARON

Child choristers have been singing at Salisbury for 900 years. This film - an observational portrait, history and musical immersion in one of Britain’s most distinctive and beloved cultural traditions – follows Salisbury Cathedral’s current choristers over Easter and through the summer term of 2011.

Salisbury Cathedral’s separate boy and girl choirs each contain 16 of the most musically gifted 8-13 year-olds in the country. Their role, now as always, is to sing day-in day-out some of the most sublime music ever written in one of Britain’s most beautiful buildings. Indeed there are many who believe the chorister’s pure, clear, treble voice is the finest instrument in all music.

‘Angelic Voices’ spends four months with the choristers as they go about their day-to-day lives, discovering their own history and singing some of the most loved music from a sacred canon spanning six centuries from mediaeval plainsong to today. Under the direction of indefatigable choir master David Halls they rehearse and perform works by Sheppard, Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Mozart, Stanford, Parry, Alcock and Rutter.

Lining up in his black cloak, Alex, 10, says he feels like Harry Potter while Freddie, 12, admits “other children think we are weird and actually we are not”. Yet few children perhaps have the poise or conviction of Susanna, 10, who explains “singing for choristers is part of them. If you said to me ‘you’re not allowed to sing anymore’, it would be just like me telling you that you can’t see your child anymore.” It is doubtful Salisbury’s early choristers, often so hungry they were forced to beg for bread, thought so fondly of their work. When plainsong turned to polyphony by the late middle ages, the choristers’ plight was transformed – with the top cathedrals known to pay Premiership-style transfer fees for the most musically gifted boys, some of whom were even kidnapped by rival cathedrals. Today’s top trebles at Salisbury are seen competing for one of the most famed solos in a chorister’s repertoire. Will Finnbar, Freddie or Noah be picked for Stanford’s Mag in G?

The girls’ choir was founded in 1991 – Salisbury being the first Church of England cathedral to grant girl choristers full equality. Yet even today the Dean, June Osborne, says she gets “offensive letters from people who say we have sold the pass with the English choral tradition.” As the summer term nears its end there are big decisions for David Halls to make. Who will succeed Anita as Dean’s Chorister and Alex as Bishop’s Chorister? From the recreation of a plainsong mass by John Sheppard, to ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ by William Byrd, and the Anthem ‘Hear My Prayer’ by Henry Purcell, the choirs tackle some of the greatest composers of church music. But eventually Anita, Alex and the other Year 8s sing as choristers for the very last time and there’s not a dry eye in the house. David Halls is convinced that ‘if you turned up in Salisbury in 900 years time you will find girls and boys and men singing. Of course they should be singing music which is contemporary to them, but you can’t ignore the past, it’s what gives us the foundation for all we do.’

‘Angelic Voices’, directed by Emmy award-winning Cesca Eaton, is a musical and documentary treat that’s a perfect fit for Holy Week.


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