MEMBERS of the disbanded Sheffield Cathedral Choir have formed a new choir, the Steel City Choristers, which they hope will perform at “new and exciting” locations across the city. It is presently under the direction of Joshua Stephens, who was appointed Master of Music at the cathedral in March, but resigned in July (News, 22 July).
The announcement of the closure of the existing choir, together with the intention to set up a new choir or choirs to reflect better and engage with the diverse mix of the city, came without warning, and reactions continue. A petition by Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir to the Dean and Chapter to reconsider their decision attracted more than 8000 signatures.
The move was part of an overhaul of the cathedral’s music department, after a two-year review, and the Vice-Dean and Missioner, Canon Keith Farrow, emphasised at the time that it had nothing to do with either finance or the direct impact of Covid. He expressed the hope that, with the fresh start envisaged, even more people would be touched by cathedral music than had been in the past.
In a statement issued this week, Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir campaigners said: “We are yet to hear a convincing argument why the choir had to be closed to make the changes the Dean and Chapter wish to see. Our door remains open, and we remain hopeful that Sheffield Cathedral will fundamentally reconsider their approach to this fiasco in the coming weeks.”
The Steel City Choristers have launched a Crowdfunder campaign to “recruit a permanent, professional director of music, support outreach and education activity round the city, and the recruitment of singers from a variety of backgrounds, as well as provide the necessary resources for the choir to rehearse and perform safely in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic”.
Mr Stephens, who was a boy chorister at the cathedral and had been its Assistant Director of Music until his appointment in March, said: “It’s an incredible privilege to still make music together. In recent rehearsals, the choir is sounding outstanding, and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to take our singing out into the city to support worshipping communities.”
A response was given in a statement on Tuesday: “The Dean and Chapter of Sheffield Cathedral are aware that some members of the former Cathedral Choir are now gathering using a new name and they wish them well.
“As the Dean has previously said, there are plans for a complete restructuring of all the music and worship at the Cathedral. This will include a Cathedral choir singing a full range of traditional Anglican choral music. It is intended that this exciting vision for the Cathedral’s ministry will be well under way by mid 2021.”