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St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, to replace adult choir with volunteers to cut costs

10 August 2022

iStock

Choir stalls in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

Choir stalls in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

THE choir of the Church of Ireland cathedral in Belfast is to be disbanded and replaced with volunteers, in an effort to save money.

The decision to replace the professional choir was announced in a statement by the Dean and Board of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, because of the cathedral’s “difficult financial circumstances”.

The cathedral has had a musical tradition since its consecration in 1904. For the past three years, the cathedral has run two choirs: a professional adult choir, and a choir of boys and girls aged seven to 13.

The statement from the cathedral said that the music department would be restructured, and the position of Director of Music, currently held by the organist, composer, and conductor Matthew Owens, will be replaced by a part-time cathedral choir director. The change will come into effect next month, on 1 September.

The professional adult choir would be replaced by a voluntary adult choir, it confirmed.

The statement paid tribute to Mr Owens’s work over the past three years. “The Dean and Board of Belfast Cathedral wish to record their sincere gratitude and thanks to Matthew Owens, who has been Director of Music at Belfast Cathedral since September 2019.

“Alongside founding and developing Belfast Cathedral Children’s Choir, Matthew’s leadership and vision have seen Belfast Cathedral Choir attain new levels of excellence in supporting the worshipping life of this place, and enjoy considerable international repute through its Resonus Classics recordings.”

Peter Allwood, who chairs the Cathedral Music Trust, described the restructuring as a “real blow for the cathedral, its musicians, and the local community”.

He continued: “Over recent years, the choir has gained a reputation for musical excellence in Northern Ireland — not only through sung cathedral services, but also concerts, broadcasts, and recordings. Experience shows that this level of musical success will be impossible to maintain under part-time leadership and voluntary singers.”

The newly formed children’s choir would also suffer from a lack of professional support as a result of the decision, he said. “We are aware of the financial issues facing Belfast Cathedral, and will do everything in our power to work with the Cathedral to help to establish a sustainable path for musical excellence, which will benefit all who live and worship there.”

The Trust had given the cathedral’s music department £25,000 in emergency funding during the pandemic.

The Dean and Board did not respond to questions about whether other departments would face cuts as as result of the financial challenges.

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