Joining the Choir
The choir is made up of three groups of singers: the choristers, the choral scholars, and the lay clerks.
The choristers are the children (boys and girls) who sing the top line in the music. They study at the nearby St Mary's Music School. Becoming a chorister is a fantastic opportunity for any child who loves music and singing.
The choral scholars are generally gap-year students or students at one of Edinburgh’s universities, while the lay clerks are the choir's professional singers.
Being a Chorister
“I owe my entire career to my experience as a chorister. It was where I learnt to perform, where I learnt to use the full range of my voice; where I learnt to listen, where I learnt to write comedy, where I learnt to carry a pencil at all times – but most importantly it was where I learnt the wonderful truth that something exceptional, something as beautiful as anything anywhere, can be created just by you and your friends.”
Alexander Armstrong, presenter and comedian
The boys and girls who sing as our Cathedral choristers are at the heart of our worship at St Mary's. While it is is undoubtedly hard work, the rewards are immeasurable. The skills learnt extend well beyond the musical: as well as learning how to sing well, to listen, to read music, choristers develop skills such as teamwork, confidence, language, and working to deadlines. This is a unique chance for children to sing regularly in one of Scotland's great buildings, as well as performing in some of the world’s most famous concert venues on tour, broadcasting live on radio and television, and recording for CDs and film projects (such as The Lost King).
Choristers sing in the choir from P5 – S2 and attend St Mary’s Music School for the duration of their choristership, learning up to two instruments in addition to their singing, and being educated alongside the instrumentalists in one of Scotland’s leading schools.
Becoming a Chorister
"I love being a chorister. The feeling when you walk into the Cathedral is incredible and everyone is so friendly. It’s a great experience."
St Mary’s Cathedral encourages children with an interest in singing to apply for a chorister place. Boys and girls typically audition for the Choir during their P3 or P4 year at school (Years 3 or 4 in the English system). At audition, we look for a clear voice, good ear, and an enthusiasm for singing: we do not expect to hear the finished article aged 8!
If successful, a chorister place is offered at St Mary’s Music School, with the Cathedral paying 33% of the school fees, with further discretionary help provided if necessary. Choristerships are offered purely on musical grounds, to children of all backgrounds. In particular, financial means should not be a barrier to any successful application being taken forward. In some instances, more substantial support in the form of an Aided Place may also be available. Attendance at St Mary's School is a necessary part of being a Cathedral Chorister.
For more details about the chorister programme, please email email@example.com. Or for a prospectus and application form for St Mary’s Music School, please visit www.st-marys-music-school.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)131 538 7766. We also hold regular Be a Chorister Afternoons, which give children and parents a sample of what is involved. Have a look on our Events page for any upcoming afternoons, or contact St Mary's Music School to be put on the mailing list for these.
"The friendly, welcoming, and engaging attitudes of other musicians, and of cathedral staff, makes the experience one that not only allows you to better your understanding of the music, but also to become a better performer and worker in a more general sense."
Becky Fletcher, former Choral Scholar
A choral scholarship at St Mary’s Cathedral offers an unparalleled opportunity to sing with an internationally renowned cathedral choir, and to develop singing and musicianship skills through regular weekday services as well as concerts, broadcasts, recording and touring. Working alongside other students as well as more experienced singers, the cathedral is a welcoming environment for you to contribute to its tradition (unique in Scotland) of regular choral services.
More information on Choral Scholarships at St Mary's, including applications for September 2023, is available here.
The Lay Clerks are professional singers (so named since their job is to lead services like a member of the clergy - i.e. a 'clerk' - but without taking holy orders), combining professional work elsewhere with their singing at St Mary’s. From time to time we have vacancies for a permanent layclerkship; if so, it will be posted below.