So the Dean is concerned that there are one or two people at Evensong, well so am I, but, the purpose of Choral EVensong is to offer worship to God, not put bums on seats, but as he said later there are difficulties with the time, so a solution without disbandment is possible.
To answer his specific points:
"It was very encouraging that contributions to consultation showed broad agreement. To summarise the the findings:
we want a choir that is full--which has not been the case for some time - Already identified as caused partly by the limited schoolaccess, widen it.
we value our choral tradition here very deeply, but we want the choir to be singing at services with much larger congregations - Improve the choir, by treating the musicians with a little more respect and care than appears to have been the case.
we want greater flexibility, experimentation, and imagination in our worship - Yes, so widen the intake of musicians of all ages, and develop new choirs to give wider opportunity, and therefore greater resources for wider and different forms of choral worship.
we want to raise our ambition for excellence in singing, so that once again we will be one of the best, if not the best, Cathedral choir in the UK - This is achieved by trust, respecting and investing in your musicians. By a wholesale dismissal, the foundation for the next attempt at a musical life at the cathedral has already been undermined, because there is a risk that if it doesn't go the way the cathedral want, it will be disbanded again.
our Diocese and Bishop as for better provision for Diocesan services, not least in light of the new Diocesan strategy - So? It has been done elsewhere very successfully without disbanding the choir.
members of the congregation--very strongly--want systematic provision for choral worship every Sunday of the year - Yes, I refer honourable members to the answers given earlier.
To achieve all this, Chapter received the recommendation to close our current provision, restructure, and begin again with a fresh vision. Since last summer, Chapter has been planning to make these hopes a reality under God.
In our discussions, we have also been considering these additional questions:
will recruitment be stronger if we extend our reach, and work with a wider group of schools? As “a place for all people” we have been asking ourselves if our Choir can better reflect the diversity of our city. - Yes, of course, a bigger pool means greater possibilities, but, children are very canny, they are not going to join something that doesn't display excellence, and are going to be wary of something that has previously been shut down because it was regarded as 'not fit for purpose.'
what might a more flexible provision of music actually look like? should we be considering entirely new ventures, such as a short Sung Eucharist on Friday lunchtimes when the city is full of people? - Yes, Friday Sung Eucharist, Matins, Compline, and other opportunities, provided by multiple choirs, while respecting mixing boys and girls has huge problems of its own. How about, Boy's Choir, Girl's Choir, Junior choirs for both, training choir, teenagers choir for those who's voices have broken (I detest that expression, but it is succinct, they have broken, ideally they are changing to be even better!), student choir, adult chamber choir, choral society, other small groups drawn from within the aforementioned choirs, all leading to greater resources, more opportunity, ability to provide a wider range of services and other events, and to build a social 'choir family' to be supportive and affirming of one another.
should focus on a new student choir, and from which we can build up our provision? Do we need more choirs? - Yes and yes, see previous answer.
how can we make proper provision for boys whose voices break? Would this be a VI Form choir for young men and women? - Yes and yes, see earlier answer.
are we able to offer choral Evensong at 17.00, when the city centre is much fuller? - Why not?
That’s already a long list, but as we reflected, Chapter discerned three further issues:
It has become impossible to go into a mixed sex school and only audition younger boys, or older girls. Schools rightly require parity of treatment, and so do the Cathedral’s own values. Does this mean that we should have two choirs of younger children? Or one choir of boys, as at present, and one of girls at the same ages? - Indeed, and that should never be the ideal, recruit all ages, boys and girls, for the choirs provided for, to allow all of them to attend.
We were already aware of the challenge of live-streaming but following COVID it is clear that we will need to live-stream all major services. How we can best live-stream choral worship in our building is not obvious, and in any case we will need to find significant new funding for the equipments such as permanent microphones and cameras - Indeed, but funding should be possible as all churches and cathedrals seek to modernise their way of accessing congregations and vice-versa. The church has lagged behind in use of such technology, save for some of the large charismatic-evangelical ones."
The importance as I see it is to respect and protect those who already contribute to the worship, and sadly I believe disbanding the choir will cause untold harm to the children already involved. What really needs to be done is to retain all current singers, and appoint a new Master of the Music who has a vision for an open, extensive, and adventurous programme of music in worship of the necessary excellence that draws musicians and congregations to itself. It needs a person of vision and energy, but from what I have heard from various sources, that person needs to be trusted, and there is a suggestion there has been some bullying in the workplace. Not even the strongest person will perform to the highest expectation if they are dealing with such other influences and pressures.
The person appointed needs experience, it is not a task for someone relatively new to the scene, they need guts, vision, integrity, ability to communicate, and above all passion for the maintenance of a choral programme on such a scale. It would be far easier for anyone coming in to build from the current position than start afresh. Starting afresh on vision and mission is important, but to build on what is there will cut a huge amount of development and training time out of the process, and might see excellent results in five years rather than twenty years.
Just my thoughts, as someone who has happily retired from such activities!