The Secret Life of Ely Cathedral

An artistic insight into the life of the Ely boy choristers

Tom Jones, one of the OuseLife artists, tells his story.
For my contribution to the Secret Life of Ely Cathedral exhibition, I was really interested in the Boy Choristers as a subject matter. Having seen them at rehearsals and performing at the Cathedral, I was struck by how mature and professional they were for their age. I was keen to see more of them outside of Cathedral hours to see how they behaved in a more relaxed environment. After meeting all of the extremely rigorous safeguarding requirements with the school, I was lucky enough to be allowed on site at the Choir House to spend some time with them

The house itself dates from the 14th century and doesn't disappoint in its grandeur. What is more noticeable though, is how lived in and welcoming it feels. That in part, is definitely down to how at ease the boys are in their surroundings. When they're not practising (which they do a lot, even back at the house) the boys are doing whatever any 7 to 12 year olds do, be it watching television or playing video games. The obvious advantage of boarding is that there are always several other boys to play with. This also makes for a fairly awe inspiring collection of Nerf Guns.

I didn't paint onsite, but I had my camera with me for reference shots. I fully expected to be on the fringes taking the odd shot here or there but the boys were so unphased by the camera, that I was able to follow them all around the house. They were all exceptionally friendly and polite. I don't think I've been called Mr Jones so much in such a short space of time! In fact, some of them even started taking photos for me whilst I was treated to a game of pool. Later they took me into the garden to watch them play rugby and have a bit of a kick about, all under the watchful gaze of the Cathedral.

photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4