A cathedral choir is for the glory of God, not church officials

Aug 2, 2020 by

by Janet Greenwood, The Conservative Woman:

I WAS deeply saddened to see Sheffield Cathedral close their choir after 400 years, with a view to restarting next year in a more ‘diverse’ format. 

In my experience as a cathedral chorister (volunteer, not professional), Glasgow Cathedral Choir, St Mungo’s, Church of Scotland (1984 – 1988), cathedral music is about excellence.

Also in my experience, you can have excellence, or you can have quotas. The minute you start with quotas (which is what ‘diversity’ means in this context), you can forget excellence. And what’s the point of having a cathedral choir if it is not excellence?

Anyone who has been privileged to hear Choral Evensong, that uniquely English service, with especially an all-male choir at the top of their game, in an English cathedral, will understand that sometimes, when we reach towards perfection, we are in the presence of the Almighty.

Sometimes top sportsmen feel it too, for example Formula 1 drivers talk about getting in a ‘perfect lap’, and how it feels somehow different, and special.

What made the situation far worse is the Dean’s address on this, delivered instead of a sermon, which included this quote:

Read here

Read:  Letter to Church Times from choristers:

Sir, — It has been reported that Sheffield Cathedral has closed its choir (News, 24 July).

We are choristers (and their parents) from the closed choir and wanted to set the record straight about the current situation. The cathedral is quoted as being regretful about the current situation. This regret did not stretch to consulting existing choristers on whether they wanted to be involved in the future of the choir. Some of us have been involved for most of our lives, but we have been erased from the picture in these statements.

We were cast out without contact from the cathedral during the lockdown. Our new Master of Music, who was making great steps towards a bright future for the choir, was furloughed without notice, abandoned by his management chain, and allowed to resign without any question about his motives. We understand those motives and are outraged that it should have been allowed to happen. Only a few weeks beforelockdown, his appointment was heralded as the start of a new era.

The cathedral says that the decision is not about Covid-19 or finances. This may well be true, but both have given the cathedral an out instead of making some difficult decisions about the way in which the choir has been managed. The cathedral also says that it wants to be more inclusive in the future, failing to mention that the majority of existing choristers come from state schools or are home educated, and not from local private schools, and have a mixture of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Any deficiency in choir inclusivity is due to the failure of the cathedral to recruit actively from schools in recent years, despite current parents’ encouraging them to do so.

We are hugely disappointed by this experience. As children, we can’t understand that adults, particularly those representing the Church of England, can behave like this. We have worked really hard for the cathedral, and they have failed to make any effort to save the choir. We have learned a lot this year in unusual times. Unfortunately, this has been the worst lesson of all for us.


Sign petition save Sheffield Cathedral Choir


Related Posts


Share This