Column: Monthly reflection with Canon Hilary Barber, vicar of Halifax Minster - Singing is a part of English culture

Halifax Minster Choristers perform with Halifax Choral Society with Skipton Camerata.Halifax Minster Choristers perform with Halifax Choral Society with Skipton Camerata.
Halifax Minster Choristers perform with Halifax Choral Society with Skipton Camerata.
​The Minster is once again out recruiting for new Choristers to join the Minster Choir.

​It’s an annual task as children turn into young people and boys voices break and teenage girls move onto University and pastures new. The children get a free musical education – you don’t hear of that very often now a days! The Chorister’s not only learn how to sing but how to read music, sing in different languages, team work, confidence building, as well as how to perform in public, often performing to hundreds of people in a large space.

Lifelong friends are made, as well as going off to music college and taking up music as a profession, all rooted in the days when they were a Minster Chorister.

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The Choir rehearses on Tuesdays after school, and then during term time performs twice on Sundays, alongside concerts, broadcasting, and travel. In recent years the choir has been to sing at a number of Cathedrals across the UK, and has travelled twice to visit our twin town of Aachen in Germany.

Next year plans are advancing to go to France. If you know a child who loves music and singing, with good reading ability and is in Year 2 rising 3, then please be in touch with the Minster Office to arrange a ‘Taster’ Session. We look for 10 boys and 10 girls to make up a strong top line supported by the adults on the back row!

Singing has always been part of English culture. Old words were regularly set to folk music, and learnt off by heart. The demise of music in state education is utterly shameful, and leaves music the preserve of only those who can afford to pay for private tuition. Hats off to Todmorden and Daniel Bath and the charity Music for the Many which aims to provide free music education to children across Todmorden and beyond. When I was at primary school I was encouraged to play the trumpet and we had our own school orchestra, so that when I went up to secondary school, I was ready to go straight into the orchestra and the standard was excellent. Now a day’s many schools have no choir and hardly anyone plays an orchestral instrument.

In recent years Calderdale has begun a journey of taking culture more seriously, and next year has even been called Culturedale 24. Great musicians are cuing up to play in the Piece Hall and thousands are coming to hear them sing and play.

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As a Borough we urgently need to think about the lives of all children across the Borough and what kind of legacy we want for our children growing up here, be it performing or visual arts, for there is huge talent within the existing community, it’s just untapped and waiting to be let loose, and allowed to fly.

Maybe we could have a Community Festival next year across the Borough which has a planned legacy of every child in Calderdale be given the opportunity to learn to sing, play a musical instrument, or to pick up a brush and some crayons and learn to paint and draw – all our galleries would be full of exhibitions for a good 12 months with proud parents and neighbours looking on with pride and emotion. My children tell me I often have 40 good ideas before breakfast – here’s another one!

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