FORMER members of Llandaff Cathedral Choir have spoken out
against proposals to make redundant the men in the choir, which,
they warn, will "destroy" it.
On Monday, a statement from the Dean and Chapter outlined plans
to make redundant five lay clerks, one choral scholar, and the
assistant organist, in order to tackle a budget deficit of £81,000.
It is proposed that the adults would be paid to sing with the boy
choristers occasionally for weekend and seasonal services.
A spokesman for the cathedral said: "It is with a very heavy
heart that we have taken the decision to put a number of roles in
the cathedral at risk of redundancy. However, we have a duty to be
financially responsible and cannot run on a continuing deficit. We
. . . feel these plans are the best way forward to enable us to
save money while ensuring our choral tradition remains as good as
it can be, and our music ministry has a secure future."
Mike Gormley, a former member of the choir, said in an open
letter that he was "completely devastated. . . . This deficit
hasn't sprung up overnight. It has been looming for some time, but
if the Chapter accountants had done their job and alerted those
involved about this shortfall and the potential consequences
sooner, things could have been done about it. . .
"There will be no men in the choir. There will be no organist.
How the Chapter imagine the organ is to be played while the
director of music is conducting is a conundrum I cannot work
While boys would continue to sing, he pointed out that the
recruitment of trebles in Llandaff was "falling rapidly".
He warned: "A cathedral without music loses its life, its
spirituality, and its sacredness. It will become a museum."
On Tuesday, Robin Jacobs, a barrister who was a member of the
choir from 1992 to 1996, said: "The sums of money we are talking
about are not particularly big. It strikes me that with bit of
imagination it ought to be eminently possble to raise the money to
keep this choir going."
He suggested that sponsorship could be sought from businesses or
private donors, and that the choir "should be capable of self-
financing", or even generating a profit for the cathedral, through
concerts and recordings.
"Once you bring about these changes, you really do destroy the
choir," he said. "It would turn the choir from a high-quality,
professional, music-making unit into a choral society. With it, you
lose a lot of heritage.
"What has got my blood up is that this is so avoidable."
On Thursday, the Chairman of the Friends of Cathedral Music
(FCM), Professor Peter Toyne, published an open letter to the
Archbishop of Wales and the Chapter of Llandaff Cathedral,
describing the proposals as "breathtakingly worrying".
"It leaves me wondering whether the
role of cathedral music in liturgy and worship is really valued,"
he wrote. "I am also astonished and appalled that the decision
appears to have been made without prior reference to, or
consultation with, the Organist and Master of Choristers. .
"What will happen to weekday choral
services if these adult choristers are to sing only at weekends and
on special occasions? Presumably they will end, since there is only
a limited repertoire for boys' voices at Choral Evensong, and
furthermore, the boys' experience will be so dramatically reduced
as to make it almost meaningless. . .
"It takes time and a consistent
experience of singing in a full choir to create and maintain
musical standards; it simply cannot be done on an ad hoc occasional
basis. . .
"You are in serious danger of
destroying the well-established choral tradition of your Cathedral
to such an extent that it will become totally unsustainable and
your enviable choral tradition will be lost for ever."
Llandaff Cathedral has received FCM grants of £24,000 since
1990. The last grant, of £15,000 was paid out three years ago. A
press release accompanying Professor Toyne's letter said that
"further requests for future grants would receive serious