Barnaby and James

Ripon Cathedral choristers gain scholarships

24 May 2021

Upper sixth form stuents at Ripon Grammar School, Barnaby Sladden and James Kitchingman have sung their way to success at highly competitive auditions for prestigious choral scholarships.

Barnaby has been offered a tenor position in the Clare College Chapel Choir at the University of Cambridge, alongside a place to study maths. As well as singing with the world-famous choir, his exciting new role will involve regular performances on radio in addition to overseas tours.

James won his place at Worcester Cathedral, where he will enjoy free accommodation in an eighteenth century flat above the cathedral’s Song School, with spectacular views of the Malvern Hills and River Severn.

Barnaby, 17, from outside Thirsk, will be following in the footsteps of his parents, Dan and Ruth Sladden, who met when they were Cambridge choral scholars, Dan at King’s and Ruth at Clare College, in the 1990s.

James, 18, from Burton Leonard, will spend his gap year singing at six services a week in the cathedral, while helping to run the acclaimed music department there, before applying to study music at Cambridge, Durham or Manchester universities.

Having missed the enjoyment of singing in choirs in lockdown, both boys are now looking forward to letting their voices soar again.

James said:

I’ve missed the opportunity to sing in groups and perform for a live audience.

Music has been the focus of my life throughout secondary school, so to leave and capitalise on such enjoyment for a year after lockdown is a dream come true. It’s an amazing opportunity.


Michael Barker, director of music at RGS, said:

The boys have been stalwart members of our senior chamber choir and various other musical groups over the years.

Choral scholarships are only given out to the select few students who have shown dedication over time and commitment to choral music. I wish them the very best of luck on the next stage of their journeys.

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said:

James and Barnaby were gifted members of Ripon Cathedral Choir when I arrived in Ripon in 2014. It is such a joy to see them using their musical talents and flourishing so brilliantly.

Barnaby, who achieved Grade 8 in both singing and trumpet and is taking Grade 8 piano this term, is sitting A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry, and is hoping he will fulfil his offer requirements to read maths at Girton College, Cambridge.

As well as being paid an annual fee for singing three times a week in Clare College Chapel, he will enjoy free singing lessons and masterclasses run by esteemed professional musicians. The renowned choir performs in major concert venues all over the UK and has toured in Japan, the USA, Israel and throughout Europe in recent years.

Barnaby said:

I’m very happy to have achieved the opportunity to sing in one of the world’s best student choirs and am really excited to hopefully be singing regularly in the beautiful chapel, alongside many other talented singers.

Mum Ruth, a professional musician, runs RGS’s senior girls’ choir and dad Dan, a Church of England minister, the RGS junior boys’ choir, while four of their five children have all enjoyed being a part of the RGS family of choirs, in addition to all five having been Ripon Cathedral choristers.

A pianist and trumpet player as well as a singer, James, who won a Saturday place at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music when he was 16 and has also been admitted to London’s renowned Rodolfus Choir, said his experience of being a cathedral chorister inspired him to pursue the scholarship.

James also comes from a musical family, with mum Cathy, a fundraiser, singing and playing piano, dad Andrew, a company chairman, playing piano and organ and sister Helena, 15, a keen electric guitar player.

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