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Llandaff Cathedral

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Almost ironic that this should be happening at the same time that St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast, whose own music department has had such a sad recent past, is relaunching and enlarging its music foundation and outreach to the community in such a big way under a supportive Dean.

 

Malcolm

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This is really a terrible thing to happen. The extent of the cuts seem to me rather like panic. It is difficult, but not impossible to raise large sums of money these days. They have only to look to St Davids and consider the amount of money raised there over the last few years for various items - the new Cloister, the Shrine, the Pilgrim Centre and the recent new organ!

 

There is a petition to sign here http://savellandaffchoir.weebly.com/index.html

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Can someone confirm exactly what is and what is not happening in this case, please, and correct my understanding of necessary?

 

The petition reports that the professional choir is being "shut down", but that's not quite the message I receive from the cathedral's magazine for December (http://www.llandaffcathedral.org.uk/documents/BELLDecember2013Final.pdf), Stephen Barber's link above and other information on the web. Rather it appears that the twelve gentlemen in the back rows are being reduced to six - by no means an unheard-of size for a cathedral choir. I do not know what is meant by the proposal to pay adult "choristers" on an occasional basis for weekends and special seasons - are these extras to be brought in as needed, or what?

 

The possible redundancy of the assistant organist seems a more serious and curious matter - if that is indeed what is meant.

 

I am not seeking to dispute or trivialise this calamity, but the cathedral has got itself into a financial fix - the reasons for which, better or worse, are a fait accompli - and it obviously has to find a viable way forward. In the circumstances I doubt that a petition will make any difference. A practical alternative business plan might.

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Whilst I feel sad that any cathedral might consider reducing its music resource, if, as Vox says, Llandaff will now have 6 men rather than 12 then surely that isn't as bad as it might be? Salisbury have survived perfectly well with one voice per part per side for at least the last 70 years.

I would echo Vox's worries about the assistant going...that to me sounds far more damaging

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Can someone confirm exactly what is and what is not happening in this case, please, and correct my understanding of necessary?

 

The petition reports that the professional choir is being "shut down", but that's not quite the message I receive from the cathedral's magazine for December (http://www.llandaffcathedral.org.uk/documents/BELLDecember2013Final.pdf), Stephen Barber's link above and other information on the web. Rather it appears that the twelve gentlemen in the back rows are being reduced to six - by no means an unheard-of size for a cathedral choir. I do not know what is meant by the proposal to pay adult "choristers" on an occasional basis for weekends and special seasons - are these extras to be brought in as needed, or what?

 

The possible redundancy of the assistant organist seems a more serious and curious matter - if that is indeed what is meant.

 

I am not seeking to dispute or trivialise this calamity, but the cathedral has got itself into a financial fix - the reasons for which, better or worse, are a fait accompli - and it obviously has to find a viable way forward. In the circumstances I doubt that a petition will make any difference. An practical alternative business plan might.

 

 

This seems to be eminently sensible, Vox.

 

Whilst it appears that the situation is potentially rather serious (notwithstanding the somewhat mixed accounts), it does occur to me that any reduction in the resources of the musical life of the cathedral would need to be considered very carefully - something which I hope will be the case, here. Given that many worshippers attend cathedral services primarily for the quality and style of the music, any steps which could endanger this important facet of the worship may have an alarmingly negative impact on the life of the cathedral.

 

If, as seems possible, it is intended to abolish the post of Assistant Organist, surely it would be rather difficult to maintain the repertoire and quality of the choral services. With regard to our church, It is true that there are occasions when my colleague is absent and it is necessary for me to direct the choir whilst playing the organ, However this is made easier by the fact that the console is situated behind the Cantoris Gentlemen's stalls - and virtually on the same level. Our Decani Tenor competently relays my beat to the Cantoris.trebles and Gentlemen. However, given the location of the new console at Llandaff, I doubt that this will be quite so straightforward. In any case, this pre-supposes that, if indeed this information is accurate, the cathedral authorities can legally make such a move, without opening themselves to litigation.

 

Whilst I understand that there were many in the financial world who either did not see, or failed to heed warnings regarding the 'crash' of 2008*; it does seem a little strange that this situation appears to have taken the cathedral authorities almost by surprise. The organ was initially incomplete when first built, due to a shortage of funds. Surely the cathedral Treasurer must have had some inkling that all was not well?

 

This said, the loss of six Lay Clerks, whilst undesirable (particularly of one happens to be amongst that number), is sustainable. Salisbury - and Chichester - have indeed managed quite well on this number. (Although in the case of Salisbury, there have been several occasions when I have felt that this was an inadequate number, given the great size of the cathedral; the sound lacked 'body'.)

 

Perhaps someone will find a treasure which could be sold, in order to raise funds. Whilst I would not normally advocate disposing of items of great worth (as has often been the case with regard to stately homes since the introduction of Death Duties, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century), this is surely better than the alternative.

 

 

 

*For want of a better term. I am not a financial expert, so I am not really sure how to describe the events which took place in this year.

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If, as seems possible, it is intended to abolish the post of Assistant Organist, surely it would be rather difficult to maintain the repertoire and quality of the choral services.

 

Bear in mind that there are three organists: the Organist and Master of the Choristers, the Assistant Organist, and the Second Assistant Organist & Director of the Parish Choir. There may be some scope for manoeuvre here.

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Bear in mind that there are three organists: the Organist and Master of the Choristers, the Assistant Organist, and the Second Assistant Organist & Director of the Parish Choir. There may be some scope for manoeuvre here.

 

This is a fair point.

 

However, I wonder - does the cathedral currently employ three organists because they are necessary (due to the workload), or is this possibly an example of a less-than-careful stewardship of resources? In any case, is it physically possible for one assistant both to play for services involving the Cathedral Choir and those which employ the Parish Choir - or would this result in an unreasonable workload (for the financial reward)?

 

In any case, I hope that the cathedral authorities will be able to find a way of safeguarding the musical life of the cathedral, with as little loss of 'resources' as possible.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-25460945

So they have done it and the weekday services are going to be sung by boys only. Since the seven redundancies are presumably those already cited (viz. six singers and the assistant organist) and the music page of the cathedral's website says there are 12 choirmen, why are the back rows now empty? Were the other six volunteers?

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This is extremely sad - and particularly at this time. (Although for those who have lost their jobs, the time of year is probably irrelevant.)

 

I wonder if the cathedral authorities will live to regret the day they took this decision.

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I don't know any of the background - but it niggles that seemingly vast amounts must have recently been spent on the rather nice new organ. One wonders if this was necessarily the best option with things the way they are financially at present. Just a thought!

 

A

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I don't know any of the background - but it niggles that seemingly vast amounts must have recently been spent on the rather nice new organ. One wonders if this was necessarily the best option with things the way they are financially at present. Just a thought!

 

A

 

The same thought had also occurred to me.

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A clear and measured discussion of this sad situation. If what Prof Ashley says is true- I have no reason to doubt it, but equally no way of confirming- then this decision has been made by Chapter in the absence of a Dean. What I did not realise until reading this is that the Dean of Llandaff is the only full time member of Chapter and that the others are Rectors of other parishes whose role at the cathedral is part time. This looks as if the decision to disband the SATB choir was taken by people whose number 1 priority is not Llandaff Cathedral, whose loyalties are at best divided and who will not have to live with the consequences of this choice on a daily basis in the way that Chapter members of an English Cathedral would. As a choir master I realise that once the men have gone, attempts to resurrect the four part choir will be placed well and truely in the "genie-back-in-bottle" territory. Not just in terms of logistics, but in terms of making good the damage to the collective goodwill.

 

http://www.martin-ashley.com/phoney-crisis-at-llandaff

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Well yes, but you can also draw a different inference from the absence of a full time chapter: that Llandaff is an establishment that is in other respects more similar to a major Parish Church than to a Cathedral. Plenty of those have found the funds to undertake £1M+ organ rebuilds, but rather fewer maintain a professional back row singing daily offices, notwithstanding which they maintain a high standard of music. Perpetual fund raising to cover revenue expenditure is far harder to do than that for which the objective is a single, identifiable tangible thing, particularly one to which you can affix a brass plate with Granny's name engraved on.

 

I say that with the greatest respect and sympathy to those affected. It is a great shame, both for Cathedral music in general and the musicians in particular, but I think some of the comments, particularly on various Facebook groups, have shown a somewhat tenuous grasp of reality. I realise that many here subscribe to the famous point view that the purpose of a Cathedral is to keep the organ dry, but it can't even do that if the fabric cannot be maintained, and while £45k p.a. may not sound like a great deal of money, it's quite a large sum if you don't have it and can't reasonably forecast a way of getting it.

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Nevertheless

 

I realise that many here subscribe to the famous point view that the purpose of a Cathedral is to keep the organ dry.

 

Never a truer word... Frankly, what is the point of cathedrals if not their music? Yes, they are hubs of diocesan administration, but administration does not need a physical building. What else do they provide that cannot be delivered by an ordinary parish church? The value of cathedrals is as centres of liturgical and musical excellence - and, judging by their growing attendance statistics, this is exactly what people value. Llandaff's experience is otherwise and one has to wonder how far it is due to the management being mainly drawn from the parishes. My experience with parish clergy (a more or less consistent "Oh, we don't want to ape cathedrals.") does lead me to question how much sympathy the part-time chapter at Llandaff honestly had with the tradition of the Opus Dei. At any rate, their decision clearly demonstrates how the cracks in the fabric of traditional British Christianity are widening. Will we ever see the restitution of the back rows at Llandaff? Sadly, I very much doubt it.

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"... what is the point of cathedrals ... ?"

 

It's a good question, one on which I have had various discussions with various clergy over the years. Personally I find it useful to ask it in the context of a second, which is "what is the Scriptural authority for their existence?". One gets a wide range of clerical answers to this one!

 

I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said:

 

"I am as fond of fine music and handsome building as Milton was, or Cromwell, or Bunyan; but if I found that they were becoming the instruments of a systematic idolatry of sensuousness, I would hold it good statesmanship to blow every cathedral in the world to pieces with dynamite, organ and all".

 

Nevertheless, speaking personally again, I'm glad they are there, even if it is only to keep the rain off the organs.

 

Compliments of the season to you all, and best wishes for the New Year

 

CEP

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Nevertheless

 

 

Never a truer word... Frankly, what is the point of cathedrals if not their music? Yes, they are hubs of diocesan administration, but administration does not need a physical building. What else do they provide that cannot be delivered by an ordinary parish church? The value of cathedrals is as centres of liturgical and musical excellence - and, judging by their growing attendance statistics, this is exactly what people value. Llandaff's experience is otherwise and one has to wonder how far it is due to the management being mainly drawn from the parishes. My experience with parish clergy (a more or less consistent "Oh, we don't want to ape cathedrals.") does lead me to question how much sympathy the part-time chapter at Llandaff honestly had with the tradition of the Opus Dei. At any rate, their decision clearly demonstrates how the cracks in the fabric of traditional British Christianity are widening. Will we ever see the restitution of the back rows at Llandaff? Sadly, I very much doubt it.

 

Some good points, Vox. Sadly, you may well be correct in what you say.

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Is it really proposed not to have any ATB on weekdays ?

 

If so, those poor trebles would be repeating the same Mag&Nuncs ad nauseam. Unless, of course, there happens to be a resident JSB equivalent, who would have to furnish so much more than one cantata per week- and so much more quickly.

 

In the worst scenario, the Opus Dei will fast become attenuated. It is just about tolerable, when 'Trebles only' once a week.

 

The morale and enthusiasm of those in charge of the music will quickly suffer, in these circumstances. The 'second' organist has already disappeared from the Music Staff list.

 

Professor Ashley proposes an innovative (for the UK) way forward, with a situation similar to that of the Thomanerchor, or Regensburger Domspatzen. In fact, on Mondays, the Choir Schedule already shows the Cathedral School Choral Scholars as singing the services. For how long this has been going on, I've no idea. With the Trebles, is this the replacement choir ?

 

May we live in interesting times, indeed.

 

 

[The functionality is still much reduced for me- I'm still unable to paste from a Word doc and have several long posts pending. I have a feeling it's to do with browser security. AJJ: did your Microsoft friend proffer any advice, please ? This is so annoying.]

 

 

 

 

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Is it really proposed not to have any ATB on weekdays ?

 

If so, those poor trebles would be repeating the same Mag&Nuncs ad nauseam. Unless, of course, there happens to be a resident JSB equivalent, who would have to furnish so much more than one cantata per week- and so much more quickly.

 

In the worst scenario, the Opus Dei will fast become attenuated. It is just about tolerable, when 'Trebles only' once a week.

 

 

 

How does this compare to, say, St Alban's?

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The situation at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban is not quite analogous, surely ?

 

The most important difference is the lack of a choir school. [There is an interesting distinction between the Cathedral (boys') and Abbey (girls') Choirs.]

 

But, even with two high voice choirs, my other point remains about the repetition of repertoire. With the amount of choice (not!) of Mag&Nuncs for treble voices available when I was a cathedral chorister (admittedly a half-century ago), there was no way one could get through a year of evensongs four or five times per week, without singing the same stuff over and over again.

 

Obviously, more has been composed subsequently; is it enough to satisfy the above requirements ?

 

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