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Protest at Llandaff choir cuts

08 November 2013


Deficit: Llandaff Cathedral 

Deficit: Llandaff Cathedral 

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 out."

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 consideration".


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