Visiting Choirs

When our own Cathedral choir is on vacation we warmly welcome other choirs, from both this country and abroad, to come and sing the services. Visiting choirs play a valuable part in the life of the Cathedral, enabling our choral tradition to continue during our own choir’s holiday.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Wells?
Wells is England’s smallest city, and arguably one of its prettiest. The beautiful medieval architecture of the Cathedral and Vicars Close, along with the majesty of the neighboring Bishop’s Palace (home to the Bishop of Bath & Wells), make it a very special place indeed. There is plenty to see and do in the surrounding Somerset countryside, and the Somerset coast is within relatively easy reach.

The Cathedral itself has been called ‘a prayer in stone and glass’, and has had its own choir since at least 1136.

What are the duties of a visiting choir?
Visiting choirs sing at Evensong services each day and at Eucharist, Mattins and Evensong on a Sunday. A day off in the week can be arranged, thus giving touring choirs the chance to sing for one day.

What is the maximum number of singers?
We can accommodate up to an absolute maximum of fifty singers in any one service.

Visiting choirs

How long is the residency?
In July and August choirs visit for one week (Monday to Sunday), singing all Evensong services and Eucharist, Mattins and Evensong on the Sunday. A day off in the week can be arranged, thus giving touring choirs the chance to sing for one day.

At the times of other Cathedral choir vacations, weeks may be split between weekdays and weekends. Please contact us to discuss your requirements, and we will do our very best to assist.

Can we sing for just one day?
If you wish to sing for just one day, please contact us as it may be possible to arrange this.

What do we sing?
Singing in the Cathedral does not demand a challenging repertoire, and it is often more effective and fulfilling to perform relatively modest music which is well-known to the singers. The workload can easily be reduced by performing only one or two sets of responses. Some choirs choose to sing one or more services with only the front or back row of the choir.

Music lists must be submitted for approval (using the appropriate form) not less than three months before the choir visits. It is important that forms are submitted this far in advance in case choirs wish to perform the same anthems, mass or canticle settings (as generally we do not like to repeat music within any two week period and as our music scheme covers a two month period).

Regarding hymns, these are selected by the Canon in Residence and a list is e-mailed to the choir in advance. Details of psalms are provided in our Visiting Choirs Guide, issued when a booking is confirmed.

The Cathedral uses the New English Hymnal.

Do we need to bring our own music?
Yes. Visiting choirs need to bring all of their own music. The Cathedral uses the New English Hymnal, and although some copies of this will be in the Quire stalls and Song School, we cannot guarantee that we will have enough for all.

Do we need to bring our own Chaplain or Cantor?
Yes. You will need to bring a Cantor (clerical or lay) to sing the responses.

What do we wear?
Robed choirs should wear their cassocks for all rehearsals in the stalls, and with surplices for services. Unrobed choirs are expected to wear formal clothes for rehearsals as well as services. Ladies are asked to wear flat shoes.

Where can our choir rehearse?
Visiting choirs can rehearse in the Cathedral from 4pm-5pm Monday to Saturday, and from 9am-9.30am and 2pm-2.30pm on Sundays. The Cathedral’s Song School can be used for practice at other times, but this must be booked in advance of your visit.

When can our organist rehearse?
Organists must book all practice time in advance.

Except between 8.30 a.m. and 10.00 a.m. and after 4.00 p.m., all practice must be near silent.

How do I know what dates are available?
Please contact Melanie Lawlor in the Cathedral Music Office via [email protected] , and she will let you know availability.

Can we perform a concert whilst at the Cathedral?
It may be possible for your choir to perform a lunchtime concert whilst at the Cathedral. Please ask for more details once a visit has been arranged for your choir.

Can we record within the Cathedral?
If you wish to record a service which you are singing, discreet audio recording is permitted with advance written permission of the Chapter (for which you need to apply at least four weeks before your visit). Final arrangements must then be made with the duty virger when you arrive. Photography and video recording are not permitted during services.

If you wish to record outside of service times, your request can be considered by the Chapter but a charge would be made for the use of the Cathedral and the Organ.

Can we arrange a special tour of the Cathedral?
If you would like to arrange a tour of the Cathedral for your choir, please get in touch with the Visits Coordinator on 01749 674483 or via [email protected] no fewer than two weeks in advance. If you wish, this can include the high parts of the Cathedral with a trip to the top of the central tower (although there are restrictions on who may attend a high parts tour), and a visit to the Chained Library where our Librarian will show some of our oldest and rarest books. Alternatively, members of your choir will be welcome to join the regular daily tours which normally take place at 10.00am, 11.00am, 1.00pm, 2.00pm and 3.00pm in the summer months. Donations from those taking tours in the Cathedral are welcomed.

Where can we stay?
In summer weeks, accommodation is usually available in Wells Cathedral School. Please contact Kay Pennycott on 01749 834298 or via [email protected] . In addition No. 14 Vicars’ Close is available to rent via Blue Chip Holidays and sleeps seven people.

There is a list of further accommodation in Wells available on the Tourist Information website http://www.wellssomerset.com/

Where can we eat?

With its views of the stunning West Front of the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, Chapter Two Cafe is conveniently located on the first floor of the Entry Cloister. It can seat up to 96 people and serves coffees, lunches and pre-evensong teas, allowing your group to dine together and be on time for rehearsal. This is important on Sundays when there is very little time between worship services. Tables can be reserved for you.

We also cater for Visiting Choir dinners or suppers whether in the cafe or in our medieval Vicars Hall function room. Affordable packages and menus are available for visiting choirs. To discuss your group’s catering needs please contact Janet Hendon, Head of Catering on 01749 676543 or email [email protected]