A number of choral opportunities are available for girls of all ages to acsess, ranging from our Junior Choir and Quintable, to the Madrigal Society and Senior Choir.
The Senior Choir is one of the school’s most popular ensembles, numbering between 65 and 72 Middle Fifth to Upper Sixth girls and they are effectively the school’s chapel choir, leading the singing in weekday prayers and at all our Sunday services, both in the school hall and in Sherborne’s glorious Abbey. Annual highlights include the Christmas Carol Service in the Abbey – famous for the girls’ singing of the seasonal planchant Hodie Christus natus est in candlelit procession – and the Confirmation and Commemoration services.
The Senior Choir sings a broad repertoire of music and has commissioned several especially composed works over the years. They were privileged to sing first performances of choral works in their upper-voice version by the late Sir John Tavener in the presence of the composer. The Christmas Carol Service in 2012 heard them give the world premiere of O that we were there! which Sir John wrote especially for Sherborne Girls.
The Senior Choir has a long tradition of providing the music for the weddings of Sherborne Old Girls. Such happy events in recent years have taken them to a variety of venues – The Crypt Chapel in the Houses of Parliament, Exeter Cathedral, numerous churches throughout Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, and, of course, Sherborne Abbey to which former pupils return with great affection.
Singing in the Senior Choir also provides the opportunity of joining regularly with the boys of Sherborne School. The girls have for many years combined with the Boys’ Chapel Choir to sing the soprano and alto parts for their Christmas Carol and Commemoration Services. There are several joint trips away to sing Choral Evensong in Cathedrals, with Salisbury, in whose diocese we are, being a particular and regular favourite.
Membership of the Senior Choir includes singing in the Sherborne Schools’ Choral Society, together with the boys of Sherborne School Chapel Choir and adult singers from the town and surrounding area. The girls thus have the thrilling experience of performing the great choral repertoire, with recent concerts including the Requiems of Mozart, Verdi, Brahms and Duruflé, Mozart’s C Minor Mass, Hadyn’s Nelson Mass, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and The Music Makers and Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, all accompanied by a professional orchestra. The Choral Society is conducted in alternate years by James Henderson, Director of Music at Sherborne School, and by Sherborne Girls’ Director of Music, John Jenkins. A performance of Hadyn’s Creation took place in Sherborne Abbey on 11 February 2015, with plans for future works including Handel’s Messiah, the Berlioz Te Deum, Verdi’s Requiem and Elgar’s The Kingdom.
The Madrigal Society performs in many concerts outside school, often alongside the String Orchestra, and comprise girls from the Upper Fifth to Upper Sixth, auditioned from the Senior Choir.
The Madrigal Society, the school’s premier choir, was founded some forty years ago by Augusta Miller, former Director of Music. In addition to the sacred music which they sing as members of the Senior Choir, the Madrigal Society’s programmes embrace a wide range of folk-song arrangements, contemporary secular works and, of course, madrigals.
Currently numbering 26 singers, the Madrigal Society has undertaken several overseas tours (Link to Madrigal Society tour to Italy news page) and gives regular concerts in support of a wide range of charities. Since its inception in 2000, they have featured regularly in the Sherborne Abbey Festival, performed twice for HRH The Prince of Wales and entertained the Lord Mayor of London at a livery company dinner. In February 2009 they celebrated the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death with a performance of Messiah at St Mary’s Church, Dorchester, together with post-graduate students from the Royal Academy of Music.
The Madrigal Society occasionally collaborates with other adult choirs: they have given three concerts with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir and in 2011 sang the semi-chorus in Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus with Sherborne Festival Chorus. Recent engagements in London include a performance of Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ at St Peter’s, Eaton Square, and a concert in aid of The Heritage of London Trust at St Gabriel’s Pimlico. Each year several of the girls sing in the ripieno chorus for The Bach Choir’s annual performance of the St Matthew Passion in the Royal Festival Hall.
Quintabile is a voluntary choir exclusively for girls in the Lower Fifth (Year 9) and provides an ideal training for singers aspiring to join the Senior Choir the following year. Quintabile rehearses once a week and sings in concerts in school and occasionally further afield, including the Joint Schools’ Concert in the Lent Term. In November 2014 they represented Sherborne Girls at the Mary Howard Christmas Fair in Wiltshire, singing in support of Kids Company, a favourite school charity founded by Old Girl Camila Batmanghelidjh who introduced the girls in her speech at the Fair’s opening lunch.
The ‘West Choir’ comprises all the Lower and Upper Fourth (Years 7 and 8) girls in the junior boarding house. They have a weekly rehearsal on Saturday mornings in which they learn a variety of songs with which to entertain their audience at house events, such as the Aldhelmsted West Open Day and the Grandparents’ Afternoon.