Head's View

11 October 2019

During the time I taught at schools in Portsmouth, I was fortunate enough to spend some eight years as a ‘choir mummy’, watching in amusement as a scruffy footballing crew underwent an angelic transformation thanks to cassock and surplice and listening in amazement to the sound that soared up into the cathedral’s vast spaces. Evensong at the end of a busy working day made me forget all the ferrying to daily 7.30am rehearsals and the squeezed Sundays between sung services: there is something about singing, in every faith and tradition, which can take us beyond ourselves.

But what fascinated me most (and my justification for a nostalgic intro today) was how each year new, young and often impossibly small choristers would arrive – most unable to read music and none with a working knowledge of Latin! – and begin to participate. There was no special coaching; no extra classes taught them how to do it, but somehow in a matter of months these new recruits were singing complex scores with confidence. Master of the Choristers Dr David Price describes the process as ‘osmosis’: ‘we always make the assumption that they can do it’ enabled them to absorb the skills and the confidence to perform.

All of this came back to me strongly this week as I listened to our Lower IV tour guides on Open Morning sharing their enthusiasm for joining in with all that a busy school offers and reflected on the growing confidence of the Lower VI students who capably and passionately promoted the UN’s vision of education for girls as they led Lower School assembly. They absorb the message: you can do this. And, as those of you who came to the Sixth Form Open Evening will confirm, the powerful sense of self and of direction that made our Upper VI speakers so persuasive shows they have discovered their own song and found joy in sharing it.

Wishing you a happy weekend

Jan Cresswell