Trust News

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October 2, 2022

UK’s world-renowned sacred music tradition faces long-term sustainability crisis, research shows

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The UK’s world-renowned reputation for sacred choral and organ music has been witnessed by hundreds of millions over the last few weeks, yet the future viability of one of the jewels of British life faces a serious sustainability crisis, a new report commissioned by the Cathedral Music Trust has found.

Beyond its central role in Christian worship, cathedral music is regarded as one of the glories of this country’s cultural heritage with a global reputation for excellence. It is cathedral choirs that are called upon at times of great national importance to set the mood for the nation, such as The Queen’s funeral last month.

However, the report by More Partnership found that choral sacred music faces a long-term sustainability crisis with choirs becoming more expensive to run and increasingly difficult to manage. The report found three areas that require urgent attention: widening participation, sustaining excellence, and improving affordability.

81% of those who took part in the research said that widening access for participation in cathedral music – especially for young people – was a critical issue for the future. The report found that progress has been slow and inconsistent towards ensuring choirs reflect the diversity of the communities around them.

The report found that there are significant challenges involved with sustaining the choral tradition’s reputation for excellence. For example, changes in leadership structures and governance over the past two decades have added significantly to the complexity and cost of operating choirs at a high level.

 

The lack of diversity in cathedral music is tightly bound with the dwindling presence of music in schools. This report should serve as a rallying cry; for cathedral music to survive, we all must work to make this world and its traditions accessible to everyone and appealing to the young people of today. Elite sport is a point of pride for our nation, steeped in history with roots running deep in schools across the country. Elite music should be just the same; not something to be feared, but something to celebrate, enhancing the lives of all involved.

Anna Lapwood, organist, choir director and recently appointed Ambassador for the Cathedral Music Trust

 

The performance of music to this exceptional standard, not only in the divine service but also in concert, TV, radio and CD, is an extraordinary cultural and artistic achievement.  This is the result not only of ability but also sustained hard work by thousands of people each day and week. The infrastructure, skills, and knowledge behind its production would be almost impossible to replicate if lost.

Harry Christophers CBE, founder and conductor of The Sixteen and President of the Cathedral Music Trust

 

More Partnership’s report makes it clear that the way forward will require collective responsibility – and collaborative action. The Cathedral Music Trust will continue to play a pivotal role in convening its networks, partner organisations and supporters to help address this challenge.

Peter Allwood, Chair of the Cathedral Music Trust