By Richard Murray, Headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral School

At last the holidays. A time for a Headmaster to relax, to take some time away from school and responsibilities – the long weeks of July and August slowly passing by without incident. Well, not quite.

For this Headmaster it’s a very early alarm clock (3am) and a drive down the empty M40 to Heathrow Airport to meet 16 pupils on a choir trip to the heart of Germany. These 16 boys from Christ Church Cathedral School sing in the Choir of Worcester College, Oxford, making us the only school in Oxford to have two “professional” choirs; in fact, of our 100 senior boys 40 are choristers.

The boys in the Worcester Choir are doing the equivalent of taking coals to Newcastle by taking choral music to Thuringia, in central Germany, the part of the country from where both Bach and Luther came, the first, almost certainly the greatest composer of church music of all time, the second the creator of the chorale and of the tradition of singing hymns in churches. Symbolically the choir has sung in front of the font in which Bach himself was baptised in 1685; if ever there is an object which can be said to be the fount of church music, this is it!

Not all the tour is taken up by such intense moments as this. We are staying in a wonderful old converted farmstead in the middle of the Thuringian Forest. The varied group of people who own and run the place purchased the farm in 1990, a long time ago of course but when one hears that they obtained it from the communists one realises that 30 years ago in this part of Germany was another world; indeed when Bach lived in these parts it was a freer place than it had been 30 years ago. Now it is as much part of the western world as Tunbridge Wells. The old barns have been converted into rooms where the choir and many of the boys’ parents are staying. Beyond the cobbled courtyard, the oaks and sycamores begin and in a clearing there is a collection of marquees surrounded by wood fires. Our boys baked their own bread and then had a supper of local sausages and salad.

Afterwards they went off to play on a slide which was as high as an Olympic diving board while the adults sang songs with a group of locals.

For young boys (and girls of course) such an experience is priceless. To spend time in the middle of indescribably beautiful countryside with the freedom to run and jump and slide is such fun. To then perform some of the gems of the English choral tradition in Bach and Luther’s home church, to sing faultlessly alongside Oxford University undergraduates before the great and the good of Eisenach, is something that surely they will never forget. The Georgenkirche, or St George’s Church, is a masterpiece of Baroque. Its height takes one’s breath away as does the resultant echo. I sat in the western balcony high above the nave, the great organ in its ornate case towering above me, listening to the choir throwing the sound out into the vast spaces in the church.

As the sound exploded into magnified harmony I knew how truly lucky I was that it wasn’t this Headmaster’s destiny to spend all the summer quietly at home.