Musical adventure of a young chorister across Europe


Louise Chapman shares this story of the musical adventure across Europe of her chorister son, Caspar ...

A chance audition with the late Sir Stephen Cleobury in the foothills of Mont Blanc set Caspar Chapman — a chorister at Holy Trinity, Brussels (pictured) under David Mitchell and Le Choeur des Enfants De La Monnaie (a Children's and Youth Choir) — on an unlikely journey that led to two world-famous choirs via hope, despair and the thrill of a new life in Europe’s musical capital.



We begin the story in the summer holidays of 2016, when 10-year old Caspar joined his mother Louise and sisters in the Sunday choir at St. John’s Church, Territet near Montreux in Switzerland, a spiritual haven for tourists and expat anglophones since the mid-1800s.

After the service Caspar struck up conversation with the organist Richard Townend’s wife, who suggested Caspar approach Stephen Cleobury. By coincidence the music director of King’s College, Cambridge was on a family holiday in nearby Chamonix. To Caspar’s surprise, Sir Stephen agreed to meet him and a couple of days later heard enough to invite him to Cambridge for another audition among the dreaming spires.

Everything went faster than imaginable and before the end of the month Caspar was offered a conditional place at The King’s College School, Cambridge. But Caspar’s dreams of singing the Once in Royal David’s City solo soon came crashing down as the highly selective school linked to the choir decided that his English was sub-par — hardly surprising since he’d previously been in the Dutch language section of the European School in Brussels. 

Dejected, Caspar temporarily put aside the idea that had been kindled and then extinguished in the space of a few weeks. Instead, he continued to enjoy Brussels choral opportunities at Holy Trinity, notably taking part in productions of Handel’s Messiah, St John Passion and a production of Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci at La Monnaie. 

If Caspar was feeling abashed, his mother wasn’t, and she remained determined to seek other avenues. She sounded out the Vienna Boys’ Choir in hope more than expectation, since children at that establishment are educated in the language of Goethe. Initial signs were discouraging due to Caspar’s now relatively advanced years (11 and three quarters) and only basic spoken German — let alone written or spelling — but an audition was granted and Caspar revitalised his Snowman solo along with the pieces he had studied with Pam Clements MBE for his ABRSM (the exam board for the Royal Schools of Music) grade 3.

Arriving at the opulent Augarten palace (pictured), Caspar’s attention was immediately taken by the magnificent football pitch in the Versailles-like grounds!  He and his mother were whisked up magnificent staircases and through gilded corridors, music and singing emanating constantly from each door. The audition took place in German and started with warm up and then after asking Caspar which masses he had learnt with David Mitchell, proceeded to test Caspar’s reaction to something different: a mass by one of the choir’s most illustrious former members, Joseph Haydn. 


Photo: Bwag/Commons

Next Caspar was asked to perform his selected solo but the Snowman was deemed inappropriate due to the lack of accompaniment. He was asked “what else have you?” But as Caspar began rifling through his repertoire hunting for his ABRSM scores many pages fell onto the ground. Caspar’s luck was finally in. “Aha! I like the magic flute, can you sing this?“ said the choir master as he pounced on the stray leaf and placed it determinedly on the piano. Caspar enthusiastically replied that he knew all three Knaben voices because he had heard his fellow choristers at La Monnaie practising the soprano, mezzo and alto roles. The audition maestro was taken aback and said, "Let’s see about that!’’ 

The audition got Caspar a place on a two-week trial during the WSK (Vienna Boys’ Choir) summer training camp on the shores of Lake Lucerne, Switzerland with a possibility to extend the trial for a further two weeks, all being well. He enjoyed the daily five hours of singing combined with four hours of football interspersed with lake swimming. 

We are happy to say that the trial went well and Caspar joined Brucknerchor in September 2018 in first alto and living in the Augarten palace. After school Caspar enjoys football, swimming in the choir’s pool along with organ lessons. 

Since then, he has sung in Sunday masses at the Imperial Chapel in Vienna, toured Japan, Korea, North America and Russia, making memories — and friendships — that will last a lifetime. In March, he was on his way to Vienna airport bound for Brussels to begin the Belgian-Dutch tour when the coach was stopped and the tour cancelled due to Covid restrictions. As the pandemic started to rage, Caspar was evacuated back home to Hoeilaart, near Brussels before returning to Vienna in August 2020.   He features in a video piece for the City of Vienna Advent Calendar for today



Caspar, one of a handful of Anglicans in the choir, hopes to be confirmed at the Hofburg in the coming months.  While the tours have been put on hold for now, the adventure continues ...