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A lay clerk
, also known as a lay vicar
, song man
or a vicar choral
, is a professional adult singer (or an accomplished amateur) in a Cathedral or (occasionally) collegiate choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...
in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
. The Vicars Choral were substitutes for the Canon
A canon is a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule ....
s. They are not in holy orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....
; the term "vicar" in this context comes from Latin word "vice" ("in place of") and simply means a deputy (as in vice-president). The majority of lay clerks are male. However there are female lay clerks in Dublin.
The title refers to the laymen who were employed to sing musical sections of church services during the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...
. At the time, this was often music which was evolving into a format too complicated to be sung by many ordinary clerk
The clerks are the adult members of the college choirs of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.*Undergraduates admitted to a College on the basis of their ability and potential in both singing and academic study are traditionally called "Choral Scholars"...
s and priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...
s. With the post-war proliferation of Cathedral choral scholarships, however, many Cathedral or collegiate choirs comprise a balance between choral scholars (or, as at New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...
and Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2006 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £153 million. Magdalen is currently top of the Norrington Table after over half of its 2010 finalists received first-class degrees, a record...
, "academical clerks") – university or "gap year
An expression or phrase that is associated with taking time out to travel in between life stages. It is also known as sabbatical, time off and time out that refers to a period of time in which students disengage from curricular education and undertake non curricular activities, such as travel or...
" students who combine their studies or other commitments with singing – and lay clerks. Choral scholars sing alongside lay clerks for usually around half the latter's salary. Many universities now offer such scholarships to fill places within college and cathedral choirs.
- Choral Bedesman - Boston, Lincolnshire