When Choirmaster of St Mary’s Cathedral Thomas Wilson got a call from Romania asking, “do you have tiny bishops?” he was thrown. He then realised they were asking about his order of small “cardinal red” cassocks for his first intake of younger choristers.
After 20 years the return of Year 3 and 4 classes to St Mary’s Cathedral College Sydney has presented a variety of challenges, from finding and refurbishing a new classroom to appointing specialist teachers and, of course, the ordering of smaller sized choir garb (which is the same colour as that worn by bishops).
The 18 new choristers are all Cathedral College music scholarship winners at the Year 3-12 boys’ CBD college and will become the trebles in the choir. The boys are from Catholic schools as close as Woolloomooloo to as far away as Bankstown.
Like the Year 5 and 6 boys, they’ve been chosen by an audition process and musical aptitude test. And they’re not all singers; three are musicians and will play in either the college’s junior band or string ensemble, depending on their instrument.
The school’s Year 3-4 classroom teacher, Bernadette Baker, has been at the college for 18 months teaching the Year 5-6 class. This used to be the entry point to the school and the choir for scholarship recipients.
Ms Baker says she enjoys teaching the blended class.
“The diversity is very different to being in a straight primary class,” she said.
The Christian Brothers’ led college has a strong emphasis on music.
Mr Wilson says the Cathedral choir practices Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 9 am and, in addition, the ten Year 4 boys practice on Tuesday afternoons. All choristers sing at 10 am High Mass on Sunday.
The musicians in the classes go to one ensemble practice before school and have a second practice added as they develop their musicality.
Each boy has private music lessons, with the choristers all learning piano and musicians studying an instrument of their choice.
We’re very lucky that the Cathedral has an on site choir school (Schola), it’s the only school in Australia with one,” said Mr Wilson.
Kang Mai is one of the new choristers starting in Year 3. He came from St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary School Dulwich Hill. Kang says he enjoys his new school because he enjoys learning music and singing.
“And Miss Baker gives out lollies,” he says with a smile.
Chorister Aden O’Hara is from St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School Marrickville where he sang in the choir.
“I’ve got lots of new friends and I get to sing after school – that’s fun!” He said.
New Year 4 musician, Dominik Speis, says he played the drums in the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Primary School Kingsford band and now he’s learning the trumpet.
Dominik lists the best things about his new school: “Learning music, sport and play-time on the playground,”