Cardinal orders inqiury into Westminster music chaos

This is the official version:

The Diocese of Westminster is undertaking a strategic review of the role of sacred music in the mission of Westminster Cathedral. The musical tradition of Westminster Cathedral, in its excellence, constitutes a crucial and powerful part of the mission of the Cathedral. …

Cardinal Nichols said: ‘In welcoming this strategic review of the role of sacred music in the mission of Westminster Cathedral, I thank most sincerely those who are going to conduct it. They do so with my full confidence.

‘Our musical heritage is precious and this strategic review is an opportunity to strengthen this heritage and look forward to the next ten years with confidence.’

Behind the scenes, the Church is in a flap over Martin Baker’s disappearance as head of music, precipitating howls of outrage from parents, composers and the musical community.

The Tablet is calling for the head of school to be sacked.

 

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  • A click on The Tablet leads to an article headed: The template in Europe is the Protestant Churches, who’ll ordain pretty well anyone. The reporter then addresses the question of the choir school.

    Are your freelancing as their headline writer?

    • Hardly Mr Lebrecht’s fault if the Tablet has a multi-story online piece and the headline refers to only one of the topics covered.

      Crucially, on the choir saga, the Tablet says:

      “There have been umpteen protests at the move, from composers of the first rank, parents, former choristers, journalists, academics and from Martin Baker himself. It hasn’t worked; but then how often are the views of the expert laity listened to? The head should have been sacked; instead a good director of music has stepped down.”

  • “The Tablet is calling for the head of school to be sacked.”

    My goodness, Mr. Lebrecht — your reading really is very catholic!

    • V. Lind,

      As above, what precisely is “catholic” about Mr Lebrecht’s reading of this passage of the Tablet’s linked-to article:

      “There have been umpteen protests at the move, from composers of the first rank, parents, former choristers, journalists, academics and from Martin Baker himself. It hasn’t worked; but then how often are the views of the expert laity listened to? The head should have been sacked; instead a good director of music has stepped down.”

  • This could (i.e. has the potential to) be a positive development, an opportunity for the Cardinal to back track on the ill conceived changes to the world famous Choir that have been opposed by the overwhelming majority of interested parties.

    That said, the reasons to be suspicious are numerous.

    – The review is being done almost immediately after Martin Baker’s “resignation” (which still has no official explanation) – it’s almost as if they waited for him to go, and then with the music department eviscerated, announced an inquiry to push ahead with even more sweeping changes backed by a panel to give it a (thin) veneer of respectability

    – the panel itself is “in house”. It is clearly not independent, even if individually the panel members are unobjectionable. One sits on a catholic charity board, along with the Cardinal (he also works for the Education Department advising on crisis management). One is a former trustee until recently, and was in post when the original cuts to the choir were approved by the Cardinal and other trustees. One is a priest of the Westminster diocese and Cardinal Nichols is his boss. One is a former assistant director of music, now MD of Harrisons the famous organ builders, and reportedly acquainted with the Cardinal’s private secretary, Fr Alexander Master (who worked closely with the school’s head master on the original cuts to the choir)

    – the announcement doesn’t even say what the review will result in … some sort of written ‘judgment’? Will the public have access to any such document?

    – the assistant master of music (Peter Stevens) will be formally consulted. Will he provide a written submission, made publicly available?

    If this is a genuine attempt to review the haphazardly introduced choir cuts, with a view to restoring the Choir’s original schedule, I’ll eat my hat.

  • I find it difficult to believe that the Cardinal was not involved or at least fully aware of what was occurring in the Music Department and School.

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