Boys flock to join new choir

Parishes Cecily McNeill4 April 2012 Sacred Heart Cathedral’s new music director has invited boys to sing in a new boys’ choir and within five days, he has achieved half the…


Cecily McNeill
4 April 2012

Sacred Heart Cathedral’s new music director has invited boys to sing in a new boys’ choir and within five days, he has achieved half the target number of boys.

Initially the programme which includes a fully subsidised half-hour singing lesson once a week, theory lessons and choir practice is run in conjunction with Sacred Heart Cathedral primary school and boys from seven years old can apply.

Michael Fletcher says he’s starting with a boys’ choir because ‘boys need special attention’. Most educational and popular singing discourages boys from using their natural treble voice.

This choir will offer the beginnings of a lifetime of singing, a sound musical education and an entry point for choristers and their families to connect with the cathedral community.

Michael himself started as a choir boy at St Marks Church School, also learning piano and organ from the age of seven. A passion for music and for encouraging others to sing and develop their musical talents has led him to the cathedral, initially as assistant organist with Thomas Wilson in 2000 after holding the position of assistant director of music at St Paul’s (Anglican) Cathedral.

When Thomas left in 2004, Michael became co-director with Nicky Sutherland with whom he now works, directing Teal Voices from Wellington Girls’ College and a new, four-part choir comprising students from both Wellington Girls’ College and Wellington College.

‘Taking a group of people on a journey and seeing them realise where they’ve come to, and affecting an emotion in the listener, that’s the ultimate buzz − to know that we’ve actually made a difference. And the choir − I love encouraging people − for them to realise their own amazing potential.’

Towards the end of last year Michael finally took over as director of music at Sacred Heart Cathedral following the departure of Michael Stewart.
Prior to his appointment he had been working in Sydney as assistant music director helping Thomas Wilson at St Mary’s Cathedral (Catholic). It was here that he decided music was indeed where he wanted to put his main focus. To supplement his income Michael also contracts in the IT area.

In the occasional moments during a week when he has free time he loves to ramble through the back of Wellington, losing himself in the bush and the city’s abundant fresh air, or to read history. He’s also a big Harry Potter fan.

As well as the new boys’ choir and, next year, a girls’ choir, his five-year plan for music in the cathedral includes boosting the number of singers in the main choir, establishing a youth choir and combining all choirs to sing at high points in the liturgical year.

An ongoing challenge is to ensure enough singers for the main cathedral choir, which, unfortunately, will lose three members in May due to the lure of overseas travel. Michael admires the dedication of choir members who volunteer their time for a two-hour weekly rehearsal as well as for the main Sunday Mass. The Easter Triduum is a particularly exciting time for choral music and Michael relishes sharing these moments in the cathedral.

He also sees the cathedral as a prime venue for concerts not only for external groups such as the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir who are performing there on April 14, but also for city schools including St Mary’s College, and St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie, whose Con Anima choir has won a host of awards.