ECS Cathedral Visit 2009

The European Cathedral Singers will be singing the daily services at York Cathedral from 10-16 August, 2009.  Further details will be announced closer to the date.

Voice for Life – Bronze

Section A        Using the voice well

1. Hymn Singing         Maximum 15 marks (9 to pass)

Candidates should sing three verses (melody or their own voice part) from a prepared hymn (of at least four-line verses); the second verse should be sung unaccompanied.

[Note: This may be a hymn in their chosen language if not English]

2. Psalm Singing         Maximum 15 marks (9 to pass)

Candidates should prepare and sing psalmody (melody or their own voice part), to music of their own choice in one of the three principally recitative styles as follows. This may be: eight verses of a Psalm and Gloria to Anglican Chant or Plainsong Tone; or the whole of a responsorial psalm, sung in recitative style (i.e. not a metrical psalm-song nor a hymn setting of a psalm).

[Note: This may be in their chosen language if not English]

3. Prepared item         Maximum 20 marks (12 to pass)

Candidates should consult with their choir trainer and select an anthem, a solo or extract from an anthem, which they have already performed (or might potentially perform) in their own choir. The item chosen should be chosen from the repertoire at List-A.

The candidate may perform the melody or their own voice part. If they choose to sing the melody, altos and basses may use a transposed edition to suit their range.
Marks awarded will take account of the level of difficulty of the music, but more weight will be given to interpretation and musicality.

Throughout the above tests, the examiner will be looking for:

  • Good unforced quality of tone with consistent control
  • Good posture
  • Good breath control with the ability to sustain to the end of a phrase
  • Clear diction including good open vowel sounds
  • Accurate intonation 
  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Good expressive and dynamic contrasts
  • Evidence of comprehension of the text and mood of the piece All of the above should produce a sensitive and musical performance.


Section B         Musical skills and understanding

1. Sight-reading         Maximum 10 marks (6 to pass)

Candidates will be asked:

  • To clap (or sing on one note) from sight, and unaccompanied, a simple rhythm, in simple time, which may include dotted notes. A second attempt will be allowed.
  • To sing at sight, with accompaniment played by the examiner,  a short melody (of about l0 notes), in a key of up to three sharps or flats, to a vowel or solfa (at the candidate’s choice). The key chord and first note will be given. A second attempt will be allowed.

2. Aural tests and Further Questions         Maximum 10 marks (6 to pass)

2.1 Aural tests

Candidates will be expected to respond to any or all of the following tests: 

  • Clap the rhythm pattern of a 2-bar phrase played twice.
  • Sing (in strict time) three simple 2-bar phrases, each heard only once. The key chord and the tonic will be sounded before the excerpt begins.
  • Identify the following intervals each heard not more than twice (both notes played simultaneously): major and minor 3rd, perfect 4th and 5th. Two or three examples will be given within the candidate’s vocal range.
  • Identify a passage as having 2, 3 or 4 beats in a bar on a single hearing.
2.2     Further questions

Using the prepared item from Section-A as a starting point, questions will be asked to ascertain candidate’s knowledge of:

  • Notes of the stave most appropriate to their voice [SATB]
  • Time values of notes
  • Time signatures (simple time)
  • Key signatures (up to three sharps and three flats)
  • Simple Italian musical terms

Section C        Repertoire         Maximum 10 marks (6 to pass)

Candidates will be asked questions (appropriate to their age and/or experience) on their prepared pieces. 
The topics for discussion should include:

  • Text and music (origin, style, meaning, how the music reflects the text).
  • Context (historical, musical, liturgical where relevant).

Note: A guide to more detail for Sections B & C, with sample questions may be found in the Voice for Life Choir Trainer’s Book and relevant Voice for Life work books (Light and Dark Blue) leading to the Bronze Award.

Section D         Belonging to the Choir

There is no formal examination for this section and no marks are allocated. Nevertheless it remains a vital part of the bronze award. On application, candidates must present a written testimonial from their choir trainer, signed by the vicar/minister/head teacher/director of music, confirming their commitment to the choir (see ‘Pre-Requisites’). 

Section E         Choir in context             Maximum 20 marks (12 to pass)

Candidates should bring two copies of any music, to which they refer in this Section E. 

1.     Candidates will be asked about any two [their choice] of the following church festivals and/or seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week & Easter and Pentecost (Whitsuntide) and should be able to:

  • suggest one of; a hymn, psalm or worship song suitable for each and to be prepared to sing a verse of one of them;
  • show knowledge of the sections of the bible, which those festivals celebrate;
  • name and show knowledge of a suitable anthem for either of the selected festival/season. 

Note: Choices of music for this section should not be the same as those chosen for Section A.

2.     Candidates will be asked to describe the sung parts of the form of Sunday service(s) at their own church, and to show awareness of their own responsibilities as choir members in these and in their choir/church generally.
Note: They may bring with them, and refer to, a service book or card as appropriate.
Note: The candidate’s understanding of the issues raised in this section will vary greatly according to age and experience; an adult beginner might be expected to show a greater understanding than a 10 year old, for example; though their musical and singing abilities might be on a par. Examiners will keep in mind that this is a first award. 



List-A     Repertoire List for Bronze Award

Make a choice from the following lists of anthems for the Prepared Item within Section A.

Anthems in the RSCM Bronze Collection approved for use as the Prepared Item for Section-A Bronze Award:

  1. Rutter —A Gaelic Blessing    
  2. L. J. White — A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester    
  3. Shephard — And didst thou travel light   
  4. Lindley — Ave Maria    
  5. Elgar — Ave verum corpus    
  6. Ferguson — Away with gloom, away with doubt     
  7. Sanger — Child in the manger    
  8. How — Day by day    
  9. How — Fairest Lord Jesus    
  10. Ouseley — From the rising of the sun    
  11. Harris — Glory, love and praise and honour    
  12. Farrant — Hide not thou thy face    
  13. Stainer — How beautiful upon the mountains    
  14. Lole — I am the bread of life    
  15. Aston — I give you a new commandment    
  16. Barnard — In the heart where love is abiding    
  17. Halsey — Let all the world in every corner sing   
  18. Nazareth — Listen
  19. Wesley — Love one another
  20. Aston — Loving God
  21. Harper — May the peace of God the Father 
  22. Stanford — O for a closer walk with God 
  23. Lallouette — O mysterium ineffabile
  24. Tye — O Holy Spirit Lord of grace 
  25. How — Praise, O praise thy God and King 
  26. Weaver — Sent by the Lord am I 
  27. Weaver — Steal away
  28. Shephard — The Easter song of Praise
  29. Ogden — The fruits of the land 
  30. Archer — The Lord’s my shepherd 
  31. Morley — This is the day 
  32. Greene — Thou visitest the earth 
  33. Attwood — Turn thy face from my sins 
  34. Archer — We cannot measure 

Other anthems in List-A approved as suitable for use as the Prepared Item for Section-A of the Bronze Award for the NW Europe Area:

  1. Archer — Let our praise to you
  2. Archer — My song is love unknown
  3. Bach — Awake, thou wintry earth
  4. Bach — Jesus, joy of man’s desiring
  5.     Be still for the presence of the Lord
  6. Handel — Lord, I trust thee
  7. Harris — Come down, O Love Divine
  8. Hilton — Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake
  9. How — Jesus is Lord
  10. Hurford — Litany to the Holy Spirit
  11. Ives — O for a closer walk
  12. Little — Before the ending of the day
  13. Mozart — Ave verum
  14. Mudd — Let thy merciful ears
  15. Ogden — Christ has no body now but yours
  16. Stanford — Magnificat in C
  17. Tallis — If ye love me
  18. Traditional — The angel rolled the stone away
  19. Tye — O come, ye servants of the Lord
  20. Rutter — God be in my head
  21. V. Williams — The Call
  22. Wesley — Lead me Lord


Cathedral Visits

Our 2017 visit is to York Cathedral – August 7-13. 

The main focus of ECS activity is a week of cathedral singing in the summer [usually the first week in August],  during which all choral services are sung. This normally includes choral Evensong daily, two or three services on Sunday and any other special services as planned and directed by the cathedral. For example, in 2008 during the choir’s visit to Lincoln Cathedral, we were asked to sing at the annual service of the Knights Templar.

As it is a ‘project’ choir from diverse geographic locations,  the formal practices in preparation for a cathedral week of singing are not necessarily simple to organise. Three practices are held early in the summer; everybody being expected to attend a minimum of two. We normally aim to have rehearsals at venues in both The Netherlands and Belgium from about 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

During the Cathedral week much time is spent in practice. The usual pattern is to meet in the Song Room at about 9 or 9:30 and continue until lunch time, with a mid-morning coffee break. Later in the afternoon (depending on the timing of services and Cathedral rules) we practise in the choir stalls, with a short break before the service. We work hard during the practice, but the atmosphere is relaxed.

Cathedral visits are booked by the choir’s organiser. Travel to and from the Cathedral is the responsibility of individual choir members, but the organiser can often arrange group accommodation, usually in student accommodation, which has to be signed up to several months in advance. Although most of us take advantage of this arrangement it is not obligatory and some prefer to arrange their own accommodation elsewhere.

The organised accommodation is on a bed & breakfast basis, other meals are left to individual preferences and tend to be taken in the cathedral restaurant, if available, or in local pubs, tea-rooms or restaurants. On one evening we try to organise a ‘choir dinner’, where the whole choir can meet and eat together informally. This is usually on the evening before our ‘day off’.

Because participating singers are responsible for their own travel, accommodation and subsistence costs, there is no “event fee” to cover these costs. A small fee is charged to cover administration and group insurance, when required.

Choir members are expected to obtain and bring their own music [NB: editions specified beforehand], having learned the notes before the first practice. A week of singing involves a lot of music, which must be carefully organised by every singer so that practices and services can run smoothly.

Come and See

This recording was made by the choir of St. John & St. Philip, The Hague, conducted by Chris Farr.  The CD aims to give as full a picture as possible of the range of music used in worship in the Anglican church at The Hague.  This includes modern worship songs, organ music on the fine Goetze & Gwynn organ.


I will sing with the spirit

This recording is of the Anglican Singers from Amsterdam, conducted by Martin van Bleek.  Founded in 1975, this choir seeks to promote English Church Music in all the various denominations in the Netherlands.  The CD features pieces from the whole range of their repertoire and the organ is played by Gert Jan Velders and Patrick Hopper.


A Festival of Carols

Following the success of the ‘Hymnathon’ CD it was decided to record a CD of Christmas music.  This time the Choir was conducted by Martin van Bleek.

The recording encompassed well known and less well known carols, including a number of congregational carols.  Recording took place at the end of April at a church in Driehuis (which has a Walker organ from 1865) and it seemed strange to be singing this music at that time of year!

This CD was released in 1997 again on the “Jubal” label but is also no longer available.


This CD was recorded and released in 1994 and was the first collaboration between choirs in the Benelux region to record a CD together.  A ‘Hymnathon’ had been held at Holy Trinity Utrecht to raise money for the restoration of their organ and the entire ‘Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised’ was sung through in one weekend.  This generated great interest, and the church was invited to make a recording to commemorate the event.  The idea was to record lesser-known hymns which would be interesting for the public to hear.

The recording was made in a church in Tilburg and the choir was conducted by Chris Farr. The CD was released on the “Jubal” label but is unfortunately no longer available.

Let Saints on Earth

CD Cover - Let Saints on Earth

CD Cover - Let Saints on EarthThis is the latest recording from the combined choirs affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music in the Benelux region. The CD features anthems for the various seasons of the church year. The choir is conducted by Martin van Bleek and the organ accompaniments are shared between James Pollard and Patrick Hopper.



  1. Henry Ley – A Prayer of Henry VI
  2. Malcolm Archer – Creator of the Stars of Night
  3. Charles Wood – O Thou the central Orb
  4. Robin Nelson – Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
  5. Herbert Sumsion – Arise, shine
  6. W.S. Lloyd Webber – Barcarolle (organ solo)
  7. John Rutter – God be in my head
  8. Herbert Howells – O pray for the peace of Jerusalem
  9. Andrew Parnell – Oculi omnium
  10. Edward Bairstow – Lamentation
  11. Edward Bairstow – Save us, O Lord
  12. W.S. Lloyd Webber – Most glorious Lord of Lyfe
  13. Kenneth Leighton – Fanfare (organ solo)
  14. Herbert Brewer – Prevent us, O Lord
  15. Malcolm Archer – Who is this who comes
  16. Brian Kelly – Rejoice the Lord is King
  17. William Mathias – Lift up your heads, O ye gates
  18. Grayston Ives – Listen sweet dove
  19. Herbert Sumsion – Holy is the Lord God
  20. Arthur Wills – Procession (organ solo)
  21. Tertius Noble – Come, labour on
  22. William Harris – Holy is the true light
  23. Anthony Caesar – Let Saints on earth


Voice for Life

With the recent publication of the new syllabus for Bronze and Silver awards, all future N-W Europe exams will follow the same syllabus as the rest of the RSCM, available here.  We also provide some useful supporting notes for trainers and candidates,  which have kindly been provided by our colleagues from Guildford Area. Gold awards continue to be administered centrally.

On Saturday 21 May 2016 Voice for Life exams took place in St Andrew’s Church of Scotland. ‘Contact us’ for more information on future exam dates.

RSCM Awards Syllabus 

The following resources were produced to complement the previous syllabus, and may be useful when preparing for the exam:

The following links bring you to sections of the RSCM online shop which might be particularly useful during preparation: