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Music in Suffolk churches needs more children and young people, diocesan survey suggests

23 March 2018


The InHarmony report was published by St Edmundsbury Cathedral, above

The InHarmony report was published by St Edmundsbury Cathedral, above

A REPORT on the state of church music in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich has shown that only four per cent of the diocese’s churches have organists aged under 30; 56 per cent of choirs have no members under 50; and 28 per cent of churches have to use recorded music to accompany the congregation.

The InHarmony report, published by St Edmundsbury Cathedral, and written and researched by Richard Hubbard, is believed to be the first serious report into the state of church music carried out in recent years.

Mr Hubbard, who is music development director for the diocese, said on Monday that the report was commissioned as a result of the cathedral’s “looking at ways it could reach out into the diocese”.

One of the most significant figures is that 62 per cent of churches in the diocese have no children attending regular services, and 45 per cent have no one in the congregation under 50. They hope to rectify this by adopting a new attitude to music for worship.

The recommendations in the report are sorted into 12 categories, and include embracing change, and churches’ working together in musical partnerships.

“We want to protect traditional music, as well as introducing modern music to churches. It is important that the music is right for each particular church and community,” Mr Hubbard said.

One suggestion is that churches should not have only organ and choral music, but should use the musical talents of their congregations. “I want to encourage churches to provide music from their own communities: there is almost a need to return to the tradition of west gallery music,” Mr Hubbard said. He suggested that people could dig out the recorder they had not played for 40 years.

The report’s findings will be used by the cathedral and diocese to introduce a more cohesive music plan across the region, which includes discussions on a parish and deanery level.

Mr Hubbard’s position as musical development director has been extended for three more years so that the report can be implemented. He said that “we have an action-plan to begin to put into place training both at the cathedral and in the diocese.”

He also encouraged other dioceses to use the report as a starting point for their own surveys on music for worship, and suggested that a new national report be commissioned on the subject, for the first time since the Archbishops’ Commission on Church Music, In Tune with Heaven, was published in 1992.

The report “serves as a useful template for other dioceses to reflect on what they need to ask” Mr Hubbard said.

New Dean of St Edmundsbury appointed.
Canon Joe Hawes has been chosen as the new Dean of St Edmundsbury, succeeding the Very Revd Dr Frances Ward in the post. Canon Hawes is currently Vicar of All Saints’, Fulham, in London where he was successful in substantially increasing the number of families and young people in the congregation. He is a keen scuba-diver. 


Read our feature from last year on how
choirs are drawing children, and their families, into the life of the Church of England

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