As we accelerando into July, many are approaching an unwanted double bar line in their life.
Around five years ago, musical children or musical parents heard about something that - for want of a better term - struck a chord. It led them to becoming choristers. Some may have realised at the time - though many will not until later on - that this changed their life.
It sounds weird. It seems at odds with life in 2023. How, you may legitimately ask, can singing music written 80 years ago in spaces built 800 years ago, possibly have an impact on the life of someone who was born eight years ago? Someone eight centuries ago built a monument to God; someone else a few centuries later wrote a piece of music to be sung there; and now in the 21st century, with the whole world in our pockets, these aimlessly assembled acts impact a child who just arrived yesterday. It is musical astrology.
And yet, across the country right now, children are asking things like, "can we sing Blest pair of sirens on the last day of term, sir?" and, "can we do some Palestrina next weekend, Miss?" Because it's going to be the last thing they sing, in this place, with this choir, and they know it is going to hurt to have to leave something they love, and they want it to be something exceptional. Because they are exceptional.
We build up children to love these things and it is our responsibility to foster that love for the next generation.
There are some incredible things going on. A few weeks ago a gathering of girls who love playing the organ took place. In a world that before the 90s was not just predominantly, but exclusively, the domain of men, that is incredible.
One generation is all it took.
What heights will the next achieve?
To ensure the next generation is nurtured we need to look at this one. These children about to leave choirs across the country are about to become next year's "former choristers".
Many former choristers will continue in cathedral life. Choral Scholarships. Lay Clerkships. Organ Scholarships. Beyond. Others will take the myriad skills learned without realising they were being learned and apply them in a world of ways. The importance of punctuality; the effectiveness of teamwork; the value of your own place within that team; leadership; exemplary behaviour; representation; self-reliance; professionalism; self-belief; patience; resilience; bladder control; sermon survival; and far, far more.
To those who are about to leave a choir you have loved and cherished for the last five or so years - even with all the pandemic madness - know this: you are not leaving. Not really.
Choir is the Hotel California. It is the Overlook. You can never leave. To put it another way: you can take the chorister out of the choir, but you cannot - you can not - take the choir out of the chorister.
We who have had that experience - who know its worth, and its potential, and the life-altering, the existence-shattering, truth of what it means to be part of something like this - owe it to those who come after to ensure that they, too, can know what it means.
This isn't an extra-curricular activity. It isn't a fun thing to do after school. It becomes you. You don't do choir. You are a chorister.
Let it become those who are to come after.
O may we soon again renew that song.