Cathedral honour for RGS students

RIPON Grammar School students have been honoured after being chosen to play leading roles in Ripon Cathedral services.

Year 7 pupil Xander Galloway-Gee has been appointed head boy chorister while Year 8 students Theodora Brodie and Saskia Hallam have been made head girls.

And Year 7 pupil, Francesca Kirkman, has made history after being selected as the first ever female boat girl at the ancient church.

Xander, 12, from Ripon, first became a chorister when he was just six years old, one of the first Year 1 children to be accepted into the ranks of the prestigious choir, which will be touring in Germany next summer.

He was encouraged to join by several RGS students who were choristers at the time and has recently been presented with his special head chorister medal by the cathedral's Dean John and Canon Michael.

“I feel very proud of being a head boy chorister, I really enjoy helping the younger ones and love singing wonderful pieces on a daily basis,” he said.

Saskia, 12, from Mickley, pictured receiving her treasured medal alongside Theodora*, added: “I feel really proud and excited to be given this honour.”

She joined the choir when she was eight years old, inspired by a Ripon Cathedral choir experience concert: “I listened to how amazing the cathedral choir sounded and wanted to become a part of it.”

Although her first couple of years as a chorister were disrupted by the pandemic, she demonstrated a commitment to the rigorous musical training: “I enjoy learning new music every week and constantly building on everything we do. The choir is a really supportive and fun community and I love being part of it.”

Theodora, 12, from Ripon, joined aged seven: “I was really happy to be appointed head chorister. I have been in the choir for so many years, this feels like a recognition of all the hard work,” she said.

Saskia added: “I have felt really inspired by Dr Krippner as he is a brilliant choir master and feel so lucky to be going on our tour to Bavaria this summer. It will be an amazing adventure to travel and sing in so many prestigious German venues with friends”.

As a boat girl, Francesca, 12, from Ripon, carries a solid gold tin full of incense, used to fill the censer container in which the incense is burnt during a ceremony.

She is also a cathedral reader, an acolyte – responsible for carrying a candle in the procession to the altar - and helper with the children’s church.

As well as taking a lead in the singing, the role of head chorister is about leadership in general, helping and encouraging younger choristers to learn and follow the music and conductor while setting an example of how to behave.

The head choristers make vows to this effect during a service where they receive their special medals.

Ripon Cathedral currently has 33 girl and 27 boy choristers, with eight choral scholars, ranging from Year 3 to Year 8, who all receive first-class musical training, including singing and music theory lessons – as well as being paid for their efforts.

They rehearse around three times a week both before and after school and on Sundays, singing at three or four services a week, in addition to concerts and weddings, with more over Easter and Christmas.

Previous choristers have gone on to sing in the National Youth Choir and have obtained choral and music scholarships to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham.

Cathedral services are free and anyone can go into the cathedral to hear world class musical performances every week.

Xander, above, and Theodora, below pictured with Dean John and Canon Michael

Theodora, pictured soon after she joined the choir

Francesca pictured on her first 'shift' aged six with Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley

*The choir is split into two halves: Decani - the Dean’s side, and Cantoris - the Cantor’s side - and each side has a head chorister. Theodora is Head Chorister (Decani) and Saskia is Head Chorister (Cantoris).