Cathedral music faces a serious sustainability crisis and is in danger of losing credibility with the public, unless it faces up to the challenges of widening participation and increasing affordability, a comprehensive report from the Cathedral Music Trust, published on Sunday, has concluded.
The report acknowledges that cathedral music — “one of the glories of English cultural heritage” — has an importance in British national life which goes far beyond its place in daily worship. “The UK’s flagship cathedral choirs are renowned worldwide and consistently perform to the highest standards of excellence. Cathedral music is one of the UK’s greatest and most distinctive cultural assets,” it says.
It also emphasises: “Cathedral music and particularly the service of choral evensong have seen a sustained surge in popularity even at a time of decreasing church attendance overall. Many people love cathedral music for its transcendent beauty and numinous quality, whether or not they are religiously active, and there is strong support and engagement for cathedral music from those interested in heritage, the artistic value of the music and its place in education.”
But, without compromising on excellence, it must evolve to meet the challenges of the context in which it now operates, the report concludes. Cathedral choirs are “expensive to run and difficult to manage”, it acknowledges. “There is a risk that cathedral music becomes polarised between well-endowed choral foundations with linked choir schools which produce music of the highest quality but are perceived as exclusive, and those cathedrals which recruit their choristers from local schools but struggle to find the time and money to reach similar standards of excellence.”
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