When William of Wykeham founded Winchester College in 1382 he made provision for 16 young boys between the ages of 9 and 13 to sing in the Chapel.

The school has maintained this same choral foundation for more than 600 years and the Quiristers, or Qs as they are usually known, form a vital part of Winchester College’s Chapel Choir, led by Director of Chapel Music, Howard Ionascu. The lower parts of the Chapel Choir are sung by senior boys from the school, some of whom have themselves been Qs.

Opportunites

A Quirister’s routine is more varied than that of most choristers. The pattern of worship in the Chapel involves regular choral services, in which the choir performs a great range of church music. However, Choral Evensong is not sung every day, so the Quiristers also have time to sing a wide secular repertoire.

The Quiristers perform regularly in the UK and have a busy recording schedule. Recent recordings include Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols on BBC Radio 4, Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3, and Classic FM’s annual Christmas concert. In 2020, the Chapel Choir released a Christmas CD, A Winter's Night, (Signum Records).  Quiristers have enjoyed success as finalists of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year competition, winning on three recent occasions.

Tours are one of the highlights of the Quirister calendar and in recent years the choir has visited Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Italy, Holland, France and the USA.

Education

Quiristers are weekly or full boarders at The Pilgrims’ School, a thriving boys-only prep school located next to Winchester College. They receive a scholarship worth 40 per cent of the school’s full boarding fee, with additional means-tested bursaries available, as well as free instrumental tuition and vocal training. Instrumental practice takes place in the College's Music School. Most Quiristers will achieve a senior school music award.

In addition to a first class academic education at Pilgrims’, the Quiristers regularly play competitive sport and enjoy the wider co-curricular offering of the prep school. 

Auditions for quiristers

Boys usually become Quiristers in Year 5 and remain in the choir for four years. Occasionally, there may be an opportunity to enter the choir in other year groups. Formal auditions are usually held in March, but an informal pre-audition can be arranged at any time during the year, usually when a boy is in Year 3 or Year 4. This provides an opportunity for boys and parents to ask any questions and seek advice about next steps. No special preparation is needed.

To find out more about the Quiristers or if you have any questions, contact Benjamin Cunningham, Assistant Director of Chapel Music.

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