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Leeds boys’ choir closes temporarily

11 December 2015

LEEDS MINSTER/PAULA BROWN/OLLIEVISION

Shortage: Leeds Minster boys' choir 

Shortage: Leeds Minster boys' choir 

A BOYS’ choir that is believed to be the oldest of its kind in an English parish church has suspended performances because of a shortage of choristers.

The robed choir at Leeds Minster has sung at services up to six times a week for almost 200 years. But membership has slumped from 30 to fewer than six; so the Rector-designate, Canon Sam Corley, has halted their duties pending a comprehensive review.

Performances by the church’s girls’ choir, which has sung at Saturday services since 1997, have also been put in abeyance because of reduced numbers.

Canon Corley said last Friday: “Music and Leeds Minster have a fine, long-standing tradition, but when I arrived, eight weeks ago, it was clear that it wasn’t what it had been. The numbers were very low, there were three boys at my licensing service, and we haven’t had more than five young people singing at any one service for a while. It was clear that it was unrealistic and unsustainable.

“Rather than try to fan it into flames, it was just easier to take stock. It was a treadmill that was running very fast, with a commitment that required them to be there six days a week. To carry on with that, and try to plan for the future, was just impossible; so I pressed pause in order to enable a wholescale and thorough review and to plan for the future.” In the mean time, the church’s adult choir will take over their duties.

The boys’ choir was drawn from pupils, aged eight to 14, from St Peter’s C of E Primary School near by, but Canon Corley believes that it should be recruited from a wider range of schools. He hopes to have a new system in place in time for the 200th anniversary, in 2018, of the founding of the boys’ choir.

“But, to get there, a lot of work needs to be done on recruitment and training from scratch. . . We should be able to do it: the city of Leeds has a thriving musical culture.

“And, in terms of mission and the ministry of the Church, it is a tremendous opportunity to provide young people with a first-class musical education.”

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