Meet the talented singers from North Yorkshire who have won top choral scholarships to prestigious UK institutes

Two students at a North Yorkshire school have won prestigious choral scholarships after highly competitive auditions.

Pictured, Barnaby Sladden (left) and James Kitchingman both from Ripon Grammar School. The talented pair have sung their way to success at highly competitive auditions for prestigious choral scholarships.Photo credit: RGS

Barnaby Sladden and James Kitchingman will soon be singing on the biggest stage after starting out at Ripon Cathedral eleven years ago.

The talented sixth-form pair from Ripon Grammar School have both won prestigious choral scholarships after highly competitive auditions.

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Barnaby, 17, from Thirsk, has been offered a tenor position in the Clare College Chapel Choir at the University of Cambridge, alongside a place to study maths.

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.

“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,” he said.

Barnaby's musical family of seven shot to stardom after posting their moving version of the Take That song Shine on YouTube as a special tribute to NHS and key workers, attracting attention from all over the world.

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.

Many former Clare College choir members now enjoy distinguished professional careers, and a number, including conductors Sir Roger Norrington and Ivor Bolton and composer John Rutter, have established glittering international reputations.

Barnaby, who achieved Grade 8 in both singing and trumpet and is taking Grade 8 piano this term, comes from a musical family.

His mother Ruth, is a professional musician who runs Ripon Grammar School senior girls’ choir. While his father Dan, a Church of England minister, runs the school's junior boys’ choir, and four of their five children have been Ripon Cathedral choristers.

Meanwhile James, 18, has 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.

He 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.

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.”

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 years-old, 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.

As a choral scholar, as well as being paid £3,000 a year and enjoying rent-free accommodation, he is looking forward to free singing lessons and mentoring from acclaimed professional musicians.

James also comes from a musical family - his mother Cathy sings and plays piano, and his father Andrew, plays piano and organ.

Little did the boys realise when they started out together as choristers at Ripon Cathedral eleven years ago where their passion for music would take them.

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson wished them well in their next steps.

He 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."

Michael Barker, director of music at RGS, added: "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.”

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