THE search is on for new female choristers at Blackburn Cathedral following Ashan Ali Syed's £125,000 grant.

Mr Syed, who is trying to buy Blackburn Rovers, answered the cathedral appeal office’s call to fund four new one-year scholarships for girls, for each of the next five years.

A cheque from the Indian tycoon was handed over to Canon Andrew Hindley, Richard Tanner,director of music at the cathedral, and singing instructor Phillipa Hyde yesterday.

Mr Tanner, who already leads eight choirs and around 150 singers, said: “We started this choral scholarship scheme for boys and it has been really successful, so we wanted to do the same for girls.

“Basically it's a gap year scheme, training people between school and university.”

Canon Hindley said the grant would allow the cathedral to readdress the balance between young male and female choristers, and to run choral services every day.

He said: “We want to try and balance it out, so the girls get a similar opportunity. We are the first cathedral in the country to do this.

“Most of our girls at 18 go to university and leave the cathedral, but this enables us to attract people to stay a little bit longer.”

Applicants, who are expected to have already trained in junior choirs, will now be asked to audition for the roles, which also include teaching younger singers at the cathedral and during community workshops in schools around East Lancashire.

Ms Hyde said: “I will give them individual singing lessons and devise a programme focusing on certain repertoire.

“I will bring in specialist teachers and the girls will be singing most of the week.”

Potential scholars are asked to contact Linda Bruce, music administrator, at