Durham Cathedral like cathedrals was built for the glory of God. We suspect that the Normans that built the Cathedral in the 11th-12th century also had political motives. Durham Cathedral is notable as the greatest Romanesque (Norman) building in England. Durham Cathedral's Anglican staff proudly points out that it is the only English cathedral which has kept almost all of its Norman craftsmanship, It is not only a magnificent edifice, but its setting only adds to the grandeur. The Cathedral abd Castle were one of Britain's first World Heritage Sites. The Cathedral along with Hadrian's Wall and the Angel of the North are some of the proncipal land mrks of northern England. The Cathedral and Castel testify to Norman effort to firmly establish their control over Saxon England. The Cathedral stands opposite the imposing castle which stands on top of a hill above the River Wear, the center of modern Durham. The Normans defeated thecSaxon Army at Hastings (1066). Thereafter there was little organized resistance, even in the far away north. Construction of tge Cathedral began (1093) only a few decades after the Norman conquest. While there was political function, the Cathedrral was of course primarily a religious structure. It has served as a religious shrine, a destination for pilgrims, and the home for a community of worship and learning. An important element of Anglican religious worship is music. And the heart of the Durham Cathedral music program is the Cathedral Choir with traditions dating back centuries. The Cathedral began life as a monastic church. The services were sung by the monks and presumably young acolytes. This change with the Reformation (16th century). King Henry VIII closed the monastaries. It was at this time that the practice of a choir of ley men and boys was founded and has continued with only short breaks to the present choir. The Choir sings eight services weekly. It is composed of 16 boy Choristers and 12 men. A reader tells us that 20 girls began as probationers (2008). During autumn 2008, girls aged from 8-12 years of age will be invited to audition for chorister scholarships. These will allow them a 50 percent reduction in the fees for the Chorister School where they will be boarders. The girls will begin to sing services later in 2009. They will alternate with the boy choristers and sing with men of the Cathedral choir.
Canon James Lancelot, Master of the Choristers and Organist of the cathedral since 1985, reports, "This is an exciting and momentous development into which have gone years of planning. The tradition of all‑male English cathedral choirs is unique and precious and we will continue this in Durham. However, the presence of two treble parts in the choir enables us to grasp the many opportunities of outreach and partnership which we now have and wish to develop further. Our choristers lead busy lives, balancing the demands of school work, sporting and social life and singing. With 40 choristers rather than 20, we shall be able to maintain this balance for them while also developing the Cathedral's musical life. I am delighted for the Cathedral, and for the young people who will be able to experience this unique musical training."
The Dean of Durham, The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove added, "The decision to admit girl choristers is one of those historic moments in the long history of Durham Cathedral. The music of the Cathedral is one of the jewels in its crown. I am delighted that we shall be able to offer the same opportunities to girls as well as boys. This can only enrich the Cathedral's choral tradition as well as the life of our Chorister School. Outreach among children and young people is crucial if the Cathedral and its music are going to flourish in the future. This development is a big step on that important journey. "
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