Sheffield Cathedral Sacks Choir, Wants New Music for ‘Mixed Urban Community’

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Sheffield Cathedral has announced it will close down its current choir to ready itself “for the exciting future of the mixed urban community in which we live and work.”

The Anglican cathedral’s oldest sections date back to roughly 1200 AD, and its choral tradition is also centuries old — but, according to a statement on its website, it has now “decided that a completely fresh start is needed.”

“Chapter concluded this is the right time to close the current Cathedral Choir… [This] will directly impact several colleagues and indirectly impact us all in our close-knit community. However, we believe this is in the best interests of the long-term mission of the Cathedral,” the statement said, adding that its “new model for Anglican choral life” would embody “a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”.

“This sort of change in our sort of institution can be immensely painful, but that’s not a reason not to move forward,” claimed Dean Peter Bradley, who suggested in comments to the Guardian that church music “can be seen as elitist”.

The left-wing newspaper provided space for the objections of former Sheffield chorister James Bingham, however, with the Irish National Opera staffer hailing choral music as “one of the great cultural legacies of the Church of England” and rubbishing the idea that it has anything to do with its declining congregations.

Bingham also shared a tweet by composer Nicholas Alexander disputing the idea that scrapping the choir mark a step forward for “engagement and inclusion”, noting that he had run a musical outreach programme for it which “worked with 2,000 children from 30 different primary schools” — but that the project “was left to die” by the cathedral’s leadership.

“It‘s becoming increasingly clear that the leadership of the Church of England wish to change the Church of England beyond all recognition,” commented Marcus Walker, a conservative-leaning cleric based in the Diocese of London.

“This isn’t a surprise as the leadership of the Church of England has given every impression that it does not like the church which they lead,” he continued sadly.

“At some point all those who love the CofE — the good, honest, people of the pew who are paying for all these experiments with their faith; and those who don’t often come to church but love its liturgy, history, culture, architecture, music — are going to have to revolt.”

The Sheffield “experiment”, as Walker put it, follows hot on the heels of St Albans Cathedral installing a painting of Jesus depicted as a black sub-Saharan African over its altarpiece, around the same time as its top clerics — the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, declaring that the “way the Western church portrays Jesus needs to be thought about again” and that “Jesus was a black man”, respectively.

The number of Britons who describe themselves as having “no religion” topped 50 per cent for the first time in 2017, with those claiming to be members of the Church of England having collapsed to 15 per cent since 2000.

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