Christmas carols: Watch the young choristers of Winchester Cathedral sing in centuries-old tradition

Watch the young choristers rehearse at Winchester Cathedral, reported by ITV News Meridian's Rachel Hepworth.

The Winchester Cathedral choristers are ready for Christmas, with children as young as eight preparing to sing carols for worshippers.

The choristers at The Pilgrims School in the city are preparing for their busiest time of the year.

They will remain at their boarding school until Christmas Day, where they will sing three services before going home to their families.The tradition, which has been taking place for around 1,000 years, takes dedication.

The choir boys spend 20 hours a week singing, on top of their regular schoolwork.

The choristers make their way to the cathedral Credit: ITV News Meridian

What do they do when they're off duty?

Young chorister Rafferty Coope told ITV Meridian: "We are literally playing football, Nerf, Gun Wars, ping pong. We're having a great time.

"After lights out, we do have a bit of chatting, a few games, so it's really fun. Choir time is great, it's really fun, it's hard work, but it's it's really rewarding."

The choir boys practice for 20 hours every week Credit: ITV News Meridian

Milly Coope, Rafferty's mum, said: "It's quite something when you see your little boy up there singing."

Richard Coope, Rafferty's dad said: "They get to do some fun things. Rafferty's had a chance to feature in The Crown."

Milly says it can be difficult not having Rafferty there on Christmas morning: "We found it so hard because we have two other children and we woke up on Christmas Day and we both sort of just felt something was really missing.

"But we knew he was having a lovely time and that Father Christmas comes to the school and they all have a lovely Christmas morning, and then when we arrive at the cathedral on Christmas morning and hear them singing, you realise it's all worth it."

Adam, 11, said: "It's just really like a family environment at school, which makes you feel a little less homesick."

Headteacher Dr Sarah Essex said: "It's really funny for me because I see them in a Latin lesson or on the sports field with muddy legs, you know, and then they go across and they go to the cathedral, put on those robes and sing beautifully, and then they come back and turn into little boys again."

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Andrew Lumsden, Director of Music said: "It's always a real privilege to work with kids because as you can see, they're normal kids, they love their games, they love playing around with sports and all that sort of thing.

"But they have this supreme talent for music and that is innate in them, you know, and it's our job to tease it out of them over the years. So it's wonderful."

The choir boys time at the cathedral ends when voices break, but many of the boys continue in music and some have even returned as professional singers.

Professional singer Phil Normand said: "I've carried on doing it all the way through my secondary school and carried on at university as well, there's no two ways about it is tough going, but for me, personally, it definitely set me up for life."