When boys song sounds through the cathedral
– and tones lurke forward between its arches and capitals, ornaments and sculptures, is represents almost a thousand years of reverberation. With a little goodwill we can say that the Nidaros Cathedral Boys Choir is almost as old as the city itself – at least boys song has existed in relation to the ecclesiastical culture of Olav Haraldsson who was declared as a martyr and saint shortly after his death in 1030.
It is indeed a strong tradition to carry on for a choir that has gradually become famous all over Europe. The souce is the tradition of Olav, and pilgrimage to Nidaros. The key is the Nidaros Cathedral as it has been from Olav Kyrre built the The Church of Christ here around 1100 – over St. Olav’s grave.
It existed for decades before this, probably as a form of teaching Gregorian chant and liturgy, where young boys were part of the “Schola Cantorum” which through centuries stood for fair and timely chirch prayer.
Christianity came not only with a change in faith, but also with a fundamental change in culture. Choir song – or if you prefer – common song was part of the cultural shift.
During the approximately five hundred years that followed until the Reformation, the old church songs sounded among the people of the north, with Nidaros as the church center of Northern Europe. This gave life and color to what was happening in the churches and behind monastery walls. It blended into the national soul and influenced the tone feeling of the nation.
Just as one can’t imagine the Nidaros Cathedral Boys Choir without the cathedral, it’s difficult tom imagine what today is called Trondheim Cathedral School – the nation’s first schoo, without the boys choirl.
The first time it is mentioned, is in the saga of Håkon Håkonson. Where he tells the prince “I teach song.” The song – ie Gregorian chant in Latin – was thus an important part of the education students received.
The Nidaros Cathedral Boys Choir is thus soon to become a millennial tradition – “Chorus Puerum Cathedralis Nidarosiensis“. The Latin name is more than a formailty. The latin tradition relates back to the medieval David Boys or “Davidsdegner” as they were called. The choir Boys got their name because the time songs they participated in, collected their material from among other things David’s psalms with Gregorian melodies. Learning chant and liturgy made the boys familiar with biblical content while they learned Latin. Singing in the choir was thus the first step in an education that would give the church new priests. because withoput a doubt – for the first centuries this was a purely a seminary.We must use imagination to envisioning the medieval Christchurch, built over St Olav‘s grave and probably consecrated sometime before 1093. According to todays standards, it was small. It would easily fit inside the current cathedrals east ship. But it once towered high above everything and was totally dominant in relation to the small and inconspicuous clusters of houses in town. It was “ecclesia matrix” – the mother church – with parish churches as their daughters. The parish stretched from Dovre to the Arctic.
Nidaros was the source of the Olavs worship. Pilgrims flocked here in large numbers both touching the Olav shrine and visiting the Christchurch to participate at mass and prayer service. The church was soon too small in relation to the amount of visitors, and probably as early as the establishment of the Nidaros archdiocese in 1153, plans were made to build the current cathedral. The cathedral school own building on the square west of the church at around the same time.