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. 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).  They also recorded at Abbey Road studios for the Carols by Candlelight charity concert held annually at St Luke's, Chelsea.

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. 

Meet the team

The Chapel Choir is led by Director of Chapel Music, Howard Ionascu, supported by Benjamin Cunningham, Assistant Director of Chapel Music.

The Quiristers are looked after by the Q Housemaster who, alongside the Q Matron, is primarily responsible for their welfare. The Housemaster, Director of Chapel Music and Pilgrims' staff, are in regular contact to make sure that the Quiristers have the best possible pastoral care and support.

Becoming a Quirister

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 with Howard can be arranged at any time, 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.

Auditions are arranged via The Pilgrims' School team and you can email them with any questions about the process, via the link below.

Howard Ionascu

Director of Chapel Music

As Director of Chapel Music, I am both schoolmaster and choirmaster in equal measure. I have daily interaction with boys from the age of 8 through to 18, the younger boys being the Quiristers who are educated at The Pilgrims’ School close by. Together, we prepare four weekly services alongside a number of extra engagements such as special services, concerts, tours, recordings and broadcasts. Most of our singing takes place within the glorious surroundings of the Winchester College Chapel, which we are privileged to call our home.

I have come to Winchester through a variety of roles, including Director of Music at a boarding school, a cathedral lay clerk and, most recently, directing the Junior Royal Academy of Music. All of these experiences have finally been drawn together in one place and one job, which I find incredibly fulfilling.

Ben Cunningham

Assistant Director of Chapel Music

Before joining Winchester, I was Organ Scholar at Westminster Abbey for two years where I accompanied and conducted the world famous choir. One of the most memorable services that I took part in during my time at the Abbey was the burial of Stephen Hawking’s ashes in 2018. Previously, I was Organ Scholar of Worcester College, Oxford whilst reading for a degree in music.   

I am also the Co-Artistic Director of the chamber choir SANSARA, with whom I have performed in many concerts across the UK, most recently conducting a performance of Bach’s St John Passion with James Gilchrist as the Evangelist. 

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