Choristers Of The Coronation



Stanley Roocroft from Blackburn Cathedral, Graham Neal from All Saints Parish Church in Eastleigh, Eddie Officer from Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral and James Wilkinson from Westminster Abbey - these and a string of other one-time boy choristers remember the thrill of singing at the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

With the help of the Royal School of Church Music, the country was scoured for the very best choristers to supplement singers from the elite choirs of London. All told, over 180 boys sang at the famous event within a choir of around 400.

Sixty years on, some of the boys recall their selection and training.

They gathered for a month's rehearsal at Addington Palace near Croydon. For some it was their first time away from home. Undaunted, one boy sneaked out to caddie on the local golf course at a fiver a time.

There are recollections of the huge job of converting Westminster Abbey to accommodate 8,000, aided by the installation of a railway.

On the big day, the choristers were given packed lunches which could even be eaten during the coronation service itself. Alan Ledger, then of the choir of St George's Chapel in Windsor, says he was told to hang on to his milk bottle after drinking the contents - in case it came in useful!

The ex-choristers have their favourite moments from the service - whether the musical glories of Parry's 'I Was Glad' or Handel's 'Zadok the Priest' or simply the sight of the new Queen processing to her enthronement.

With the service over, it was a rush for the buffet. Then back to everyday life, but with memories to last a lifetime.

Producer: Andrew Green

An Andrew Green production for BBC Radio 4.