New choristers get a “bumping”

SIX new boy choristers have been admitted to Salisbury Cathedral and four established choristers were promoted to seniors during Evensong on 25th September. Family, friends and sponsors joined the service which was followed by the traditional “bumping” ceremony.

Next Sunday will see a similar service at which two girl choristers will be admitted and established girl choristers will be promoted.

Most of the choristers this year are local, but among the choir members being promoted and admitted were singers from Cheltenham, Ringwood, Sixpenny Handley and a service family.

This year, for the first time, one new chorister is the son of one of the first girl choristers admitted to the choir in 1991 – a small piece of history in the long tradition of choristers in the Cathedral.

Edward Parker, Samuel Jarvis, Cassius Wade, Oscar Salomon, George Johnson and Jacob Watson were welcomed to the choir by fellow choristers in the age-old “bumping” ceremony. Bumping takes place in the South Quire Aisle opposite the Vestry. Each chorister takes his turn to have his head banged seven times on the ‘bumping stone’ while the assembled boys choir chants a welcome.

No-one knows where this tradition comes from, or how long it has been part of chorister admission or, indeed, whether the stone was specially carved for “bumping” or has been worn away by heads over centuries. It is all done very gently, though!

This year’s new choristers are not only singers, but are also learning at least one or two other instruments including piano, trombone, double bass, violin and trumpet, making good use of the excellent music teaching available at the Cathedral school.

Established choristers, Harry Mills, Logan Broom, Luke Anderson-Diaper and George Gostick, were promoted to senior choristers during the same service.

The Cathedral’s director of music David Halls says: “It is great to welcome such a strong cohort into the choir, with excellent seniors to encourage and support them. English Cathedrals are the custodians of an important choral tradition that singers like these boys are helping us to maintain. It is a form of music that is particular to our history and legacy.”

The two new girl choristers, Rose Howarth and Venetia Sturgeon, will be “bumped” in a ceremony modelled on the boys, taking place in the Trinity Chapel and involving a very large prayer book.

Venetia joins her sister Allegra, who is already a chorister. Allegra will be promoted to senior chorister during the same service, along with fellow choristers Amelia Parker, Mollie Johnson, and Cecilia Davies.

Salisbury Cathedral is one of Britain’s finest medieval cathedrals, famously boasting the tallest spire in the country (123m), visible for miles around. It owns and displays one of only four remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta in the world, in the Chapter House, and has a special commitment to challenging injustice and fostering reconciliation, both at home and abroad.

The Cathedral Choir maintains an unbroken tradition of church music that stretches back for more than eight centuries in the present cathedral, and for a further 100 years before that in the cathedral at Old Sarum. Music is provided by 16 boy choristers, 16 girl choristers, six Lay Vicars (adult singers), the director of music, assistant director, and the organ scholar. The Cathedral took the historic step of bringing girl choristers into the Choral Foundation and choir school in 1991, the first English cathedral to do so.

Pictures of the new choristers and the “bumping” ceremony, by Spencer Mulholland