In 2013 the Cathedral entered into partnership with three schools in north Belfast: Cliftonville Integrated Primary School, Edenbrooke Primary School, and Sacred Heart Boys' Primary School. Each class in each of the 'choir schools' has a singing-based music session with a member of the Cathedral's music staff each week, and the staff are delighted to be involved in other musical activities, such as nativity performances, preparations for important religious services, and showing off the pupils' musical prowess at open days. This is provided entirely free of charge to the schools.
The Cathedral also aims to further the musical education of the pupils of these schools by recruiting pupils for the cathedral's choirs, where they benefit from more focused vocal tuition and training in choral singing.
The Cathedral Choir School Project is supported by the Ouseley Church Music Trust www.ouseleytrust.org.uk and by The Williams Church Music Trust.
Belfast Cathedral press officer Karen Bushby pays a visit to Edenbrooke Primary School, north Belfast, which is one of three schools taking part in St Anne's cross community Choir School Project.
A circle of expectant faces looks up as Cathedral music tutor Catherine Harper prepares to take her P5 singing class in Edenbrooke Primary School.
Like any teacher, Miss Harper greets the class and they greet her back. However, Miss Harper's 'Good Morning P5' is delivered in a clear soprano voice, and the group of eight and nine-year-olds sitting on the floor respond in unison with a very tuneful 'Good Morning Miss Harper!"
That's not how I remember music lessons in school!
After an energetic warm-up, both vocal and physical, the children settle down to sing songs number one and two from Jonah Man Jazz, encouraged by their effervescent vocal tutor. Boys and girls are engaged and sing with enthusiasm. Many of them will be singing these songs in the Cathedral itself when they join the other schools in the Choir School project - Sacred Heart and Cliftonville Integrated, for the Jonah Man Jazz concert on Sunday June 8.
This concert, which will also feature St Anne's Girls' Choir and the Cathedral Jazz Band, is part of the Belfast Cathedral Music Festival which runs from June 7-15.
With the serious rehearsal over, the children enthusiastically join in with a song about a haunted house, with lots of shushing and other interesting sound effects. The half hour lesson is over in no time, the children move back from their circle to their desks and Miss Harper prepares to move on to her next lesson.
This time her enthusiastic students are a group of Primary Two and Primary Three pupils and if Miss Harper proved herself to be energetic during her first lesson, she is positively athletic this time round.
The lesson is held in the school gym, where there is plenty of room for movement and action to accompany the songs which have every child on their feet and a smile on every face. We have puppets and clapping and swapping partners and lots and lots of wonderful singing.
Exhausted from just watching I leave Miss Harper to the rest of the day's classes. I hope to visit the other schools in the Choir School project in the next few weeks, but this visit to Edenbrooke has spoken volumes about the value of this initiative to the children of this north Belfast community.