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Cathedral Choirs in Danger

Cathedral Choirs in Danger

Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, laments cuts to cathedral choirs in the Church of England:

As the voices of the choir bounce around the pillars of the cathedral, they carry with them the various petitions and often inchoate yearnings of those gathered in the pews: a death, a broken love affair, a new child, a desire for the world to be a different place. Tallis, Bach, Handel, Mozart, even contemporary musicians like the recently deceased John Tavener, they have the capacity take our patchy, confused and half-worked-through feelings and translate them aesthetically into something approaching coherence and worthy of wonder.

If only the church could get over its preposterous obsession with regulating people’s bedroom behaviour, or nagging at a dwindling and indifferent audience about narrow points of obscure doctrine, or desperately trying to sign people up in some undignified recruitment drive, and instead remember that it is in the hands of such musicians that the church is at its most emotionally compelling. No wonder cathedral attendance has actually been growing even as church attendance generally continues to fall…

Professor Peter Toyne, chair of Friends of Cathedral Music, says it like it is: “Quite simply, cathedral music is endangered.” Nearly half the country’s cathedral choirs have recently approached his charity for financial support. This isn’t something that ought to be a concern simply for the religious. When the National Gallery seeks to save a painting for the nation, Richard Dawkins doesn’t protest that it’s a painting of St John or a depiction of the crucifixion – or, at least, I don’t think he does. Even those who don’t do God generally get the value of cathedral choirs. Let’s protect them.

Fraser’s full article is available here.


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Bob McCloskey

My wife and I immediately emailed the Guardian article to several of our church friends. Giles Frasier is my favorite CofE priest/journalist.

As a retired priest, liturgist and cathedral organist I obviously agree totally with Fraser. [I also admire his ethical decision to leave St. Paul’s Cathedral after his colleagues in the Chapter decided to evict the Occupy London protestors from the cathedral property several months ago.]

Alas, my excitement by Giles’ current article was saddened when I read some of the UK comments. I doubt if any of the professed atheists and non-attenders ever attended Evensong – but I’m not certain it would resonate with them, regardless.

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