National Cathedral Choristers at Roslyn
The choristers of the National Cathedral have spent the past four days at their annual choir camp at Roslyn on River Road in Richmond.
The young singers are preparing for their daily duties in Washington.
McCarthy: We have two sets of choristers. The come from the two schools that are associated with the Cathedral.
Michael McCarthy is in his eighth year as Choirmaster at the National Cathedral.
McCarthy: We have 22 girls this year and 16 boys. The girls, who go to the National Cathedral School, sing every morning between 7:45 and 8:35. They sing also evensong on a Monday and a Wednesday; and so they're back with us at 4:00 and they're finished by about 6:15. And then they basically alternate the weekends with the boys, so they're one weekend on, one weekend off for Sunday services. And the usual Christmas and Easter services are shared out between the two sets of choristers.
The choir camp, McCarthy says, is an important tune up. Each year some 20% of the singers are new.
McCarthy: There's a long vacation time and I think it's very good for the kids to become very centered by just focusing on their choral duties at school. They have a whole routine to get into next week, so it's nice to keep them separate. And, also very good for the new kids to arrive into the program--those who haven't or aren't known to the other choristers and to spend some days here in some fellowship getting to know one another.
The Choirmaster tries to keep the camp schedule flexible and enjoyable.
McCarthy: We've been playing around with this a little bit in the last couple of years, but we seem to be into a routine now where we work in the morning and we work fairly thoroughly for three hours and then have some hours off in the afternoon. Evening times can be a mix of extra rehearsal or they always have at the end of choir camp, they have a talent show, which takes a lot of organizing and a lot of excitement and a lot to-ing and fro-ing. So, we allow that for the evenings.
Do the instructors also participate in the talent show?
McCarthy: We try very hard not to.
The Choirs are central to worship at the National Cathedral and finding singers with the necessary potential is an ongoing effort.
McCarthy: It's easier to recruit for the girls choir because the girls are already admitted to the school, so you have a captured pool there. For the boys, it remains a challenge. St. Albans School where they go is highly academic and very focused and very scheduled. So, we really have to find boys and families who are willing to be able take on the extra routine and to invest in that. So, it's a challenge.
Yesterday, at 4 in the afternoon, the Cathedral Choristers walked over to All Saints Church, next door to Roslyn to sing Choral Evensong. It was an opportunity, McCarthy said, to introduce the choir to people who might never hear them and who might have children interested in singing. All Saints is the home of the only Church boy choir in Virginia.
McCarthy: Well, you see we come at a time of year where the collaboration is not impossible because the All Saints kids are still away. It resonates very much that both the Cathedral and All Saints are invested in educating the kids in church music at a young age. That's how you create successful musicians in the church.