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UK >

Llandaff confirms choir redundancies

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 20 Dec 2013 @ 03:48

THE five lay clerks of Llandaff Cathedral Choir were made redundant on Friday, in addition to a part-time choral scholar and the assistant organist. The announcement came after several weeks of negotiation and speculation (News, 8 November, 20 December).

A statement from the Chapter said that the redundancies were "part of the Cathedral's strategy to address a significant financial deficit and protect the long-term future of its choral tradition". The move is set to save £45,000, more than half the Cathedral's projected deficit of £81,000.

The adults choristers will "in future be contracted on a flexible, occasional basis, to sing with the boy choristers in the cathedral choir for Sunday services and special events."

The Chapter first announced plans to "slim down" the choir at the beginning of November. A consultation  with those affected was held, but a spokesperson for the Chapter said on Friday that it had "come to the conclusion that the new funding arrangement for the choir is the best and most responsible way to secure both its long-term future, and the future of the cathedral community as a whole."

The spokesperson said: "The Cathedral values its choral tradition very highly.  The music department was the last area of expenditure that Chapter had to examine in detail, and the last area where we could see that necessary cost savings could be made.

"At present the music department constitutes one sixth of the Cathedral's total budget  - more than the combined budget available for all energy costs and fabric repairs and maintenance. This is despite the fact that the Cathedral choir sings at fewer than 35 per cent of all services and only during school term-time.

"We fear that the alternative of relying on constant fundraising for one area of our responsibilities would overshadow or diminish support for other pressing needs, such as the fabric of the building, and even then could not guarantee a sustainable long-term solution. Instead, delivering long-term sustainability must come from changing the structure of the Cathedral choir, strengthening relationships with other organisations involved with music, and developing the complementary roles of the girls' and parish choirs."

In response to the announcment on Friday, David Abrahams, head of legal affairs at the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), said: "This is a terrible decision by the Cathedral Chapter with huge repercussions for the individuals involved and for Llandaff Cathedral.  We believe that donations from supporters of the Save Llandaff Choir Campaign and the Choir's own fundraising plans could have raised the necessary funds to keep these musicians employed."

The chief executive of the ISM,  Deborah Annetts, said: "Making people redundant the week before Christmas and at the choir's busiest time of year is a shocking decision that will do lasting damage both to the musical life and the reputation of Llandaff Cathedral."

The statement from the ISM said that the musicians who had been made redundant were considering an appeal against the decision.

Professor Peter Toyne, who chairs Friends of Cathedral Music (FCM), appeared to me more sympathetic to the cathedral's plight. He said: "The heritage represented by cathedral music is priceless but it comes at a very high price and that is why, if it is to be safeguarded and sustained for generations to come, imaginative leadership and clear long-term sustainable plans for its development are needed at acutely difficult times like this."

Representatives of FCM and the Ouseley Trust, a choral liturgy charity, had discussed altnernatives to the redundancies with the Chapter. The statement from the two charities on Friday said that they "recognise and welcome the cathedral authorities' firm commitment, despite the cuts they have had to make, to identify a robust strategic plan for the long-term sustainable development of their choirs."

On Friday, John Pockett, a member of the congregation of the cathedral, described his "great disappointment" at the decision of the Chapter, which "appears to be a knee-jerk reaction. . .  It would have been far better to have looked at ways to raise money to keep the choir, which is one of the two great attractions of Llanduff. The building and the choir make up the worship,  which is at the heart of all of it."

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