Heathfield girl’s singing talent leads to cathedral appointment

29th September


New choristers and senior choristers L-R: Octavia Dawson, Anna Staines, Amelie Thrale, Sophie Nicholls, Lili Rashbrook, Zerlina Ross, Annenora Benians and Tammy Dobby. Photography Ash Mills

The singing talent of a Heathfield girl has earned her the honour of becoming Dean’s Chorister at a school linked with one of the country’s most famous cathedrals.

Chorister Annenora Benians was appointed Dean’s Chorister for Salisbury Cathedral’s girls’ choir last Sunday (23 September) in a special Evensong at which new choristers were admitted and senior choristers appointed to key posts.

Becoming Dean’s Chorister is both an honour and a responsibility. As the most senior chorister in the girls’ choir, Annenora must serve as a role model to other choristers and perform to an exceptionally high standard.


Annenora Benians and Zerlina Ross

She began singing in the choir of St Dunstan’s, Mayfield, and soon started to follow in her father’s footsteps. Andrew Benians began his career as a chorister of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He moved to East Sussex when appointed Director of Music of St Dunstan’s Church in 2004.

Annenora gained a place at Salisbury Cathedral School and became a full chorister in 2016. As a probationer she was featured on the BBC’s One Show having her hair cut in the North Transept while TV celebrity and hairdresser Michael Douglas interviewed her. Michael also interviewed the Clerk of the Works, Gary Price and The Reverend Tom Clammer, Canon Precentor while cutting their hair for the show.

Annenora with brother Daniel

Annenora received her Dean’s Chorister’s medallion from the Very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury. Another Heathfield girl, Octavia Dawson, was promoted in the same service and admitted as a Turner. Octavia, a former pupil of Dallington Primary School, also started her choral career at St Dunstan’s.

Singing talent runs through the family and Daniel Benians also attends Salisbury Cathedral School and is a chorister. Both children are former pupils of Cross in Hand School.

Annenora and Octavia joined the cathedral choir as probationers in September 2015 and were “bumped” up to full choristers in February 2016.  Their duties in the choir involve singing the daily choral services at the cathedral in addition to concerts and BBC broadcasts.  They have also taken part in tours of Germany and San Francisco.  This is done all in tandem with their daily academic schoolwork.

Annenora plays violin and piano and Octavia plays cello and piano. Both girls enjoy their sport and are taking part in a hockey tour in Holland next month.

Daniel joined the boys Cathedral Choir in September 2016.  He plays piano and French horn and is a keen sportsperson playing on the cathedral school’s hockey, rugby and cricket teams.

They all continue to sing at Mayfield when they are home on holidays from Salisbury. The trio will be taking part in a performance of Britten’s War Requiem at Salisbury in November and Daniel will be taking part in a special performance of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms at Chichester Cathedral to celebrate the centenary of the composer’s birth.  All three will be going on tour to Austria in April 2019 with concerts in Vienna and Salzburg.

Annenora Benians with the Dean

Annenora with the Dean

Andrew Benians said:  “What Annenora has been able to achieve becoming Head Girl Chorister was through her sheer hard work, of which my wife and I are immensely proud, and the fact that Daniel and Octavia also sing in Salisbury Cathedral Choir, shows what standard of music is present at Mayfield Parish Church.”

Dean of Salisbury, The Very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos added: “We are fortunate to have talented young musicians who are willing to make the commitment to the choir, ensuring that it maintains its exceptionally high standards. Life in the choir is fun and rewarding – but it is hard work. The girl choristers share daily Cathedral duties with the boys choir, on top of which they will be performing Britten’s War Requiem in November and Handel’s Messiah in December. So they have an exciting but challenging few months ahead of them – and that’s without factoring in the choir tour to Austria in 2019!”

Benjamin Britten’s epic War Requiem will be performed in the Cathedral on Saturday 10th November at 19.30, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

Salisbury Musical Society and choristers will be accompanied by the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra. Soloists are Alwyn Mellor – soprano, Mark Wilde – tenor and Julien Van Mellaerts – baritone. David Halls, Director of Music conducts the concert, which is sponsored by I. N. Newman Ltd and Fawcetts LLP.

Details can be found on the Cathedral website.  Handel’s Messiah takes place just over a month later, on Saturday 15th December 2018 at 19:00 in the Cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral Choir and distinguished soloists, Katherine Watson, Anna Harvey, Andrew Kennedy and Matthew Brook will be accompanied by the City of London Sinfonia. David Halls will conduct. Booking will be available on the Cathedral website shortly.

Chorister admissions and promotions are always followed closely by the annual Be a Chorister for a Day event, which marks the start of the recruitment season for the choir. The experience is open to children from school years 2, 3 and 4 and will involve fun activities, a chance to explore the building, and the opportunity to rehearse with the choristers and sing at Evensong.

Be a Chorister for a Day will take place on Saturday 13 October. Anyone wishing to book can download an application form from their website: Be a Chorister for a Day or contact Kathy Davies on chorister.recruitment@salcath.co.uk or call 07979 378926