Cathedral sacks its paid musicians

St Asaph Cathedral in Wales has made its music team redundant ‘due to financial pressures’.

The director and assistant director of music lose their jobs.

The Dean says the savings will go towards sustaining the singers in the choir, who are generally volunteers.

St Asaph is said to be the smallest cathedral in Britain.

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  • The designation ‘smallest cathedral in Britain’ seems to be claimed by a number of candidates. It probably depends how you define ‘cathedral’ and how you define ‘smallest’. If you include the Catholic cathedrals of the Latin and Eastern Rites, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox cathedrals, and the former Scottish cathedrals, there must be cathedrals that are even smaller than St Asaph. The Catholic Shrewsbury Cathedral is certainly claimed as the smallest in England, if not in Britain, although I suspect that this claim overlooks the various Orthodox cathedrals. St Moluag’s Cathedral, on the island of Lismore, is not technically a cathedral as it is now a Church of Scotland church and therefore not the seat of a bishop (the Church of Scotland, of course, being Presbyterian). I cannot tell you exactly how small St Moluag’s is, but it is certainly very small (considerably smaller than an average parish church). The Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church of All Saints (Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) in Camden Town is also extremely small (it was formerly a fairly small Anglican parish church). St George’s Cathedral (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland, Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East) in St Pancras is possibly even smaller (again, a small former Anglican parish church). The Liberal Cathedral Pro-Cathedral Church of All Saints, located at 205C Upper Richmond Road in Putney, is so small that it is easily mistaken for the church hall of the former Union Chapel next door, now the home of Putney Arts Theatre.

  • it is worth pointing out that in most churches in the UK worship leaders and musicians tend to be volunteers not paid members of staff.

    • It is worth pointing out that most churches in the UK are largely/wholly unheated. [sarcasm alert] So, how about cutting costs by decommissioning the heating systems in the churches which have them? After all, there is nothing wrong with having worshippers/visitors/performers shiver for cold in the winter… maybe it will inspire the fear of God, and make them more pious! Not only would it save money (let us overlook the increased burden on the NHS arising from the increased illness that would result), but it would also be good for the environment as well! [end of sarcasm alert]

      On a serious note, the rhetoric for dragging down provision at X just because not everybody has the level of provision possessed by X is horribly regressive. It is most perfidious for the valuable contributions of amateur musicians to be taken as a pretext for eroding the opportunities for professional musicians to make a living.

      As for the value of professional musicians in the church, I think the declaration at the following page makes a compelling case which is well worth reading, including on the particular importance of cathedrals and their leadership role within dioceses (although focussed on the Roman Catholic church, many of the declaration’s principles strike me as applicable more generally):

      http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/03/international-declaration-on-sacred.html

      • As a church musician myself I don’t know of ANY organists that do their job for no pay. Rates of course may vary, and a small rural church will pay less than a larger urban parish church, but I have never anywhere heard of an organist not being paid for their work. Indeed the RSCM publishes guidelines annually for recommended rates of pay for organists, hardly worth it if everyone is volunteering!

      • Umm…some people might believe that the church should provide charity to the poor and sick rather than pay for musicians. And I imagine that this religious community isn’t that wealthy (and church attendance is declining in rural areas).

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