Update: 02 Aug
Update: 02 August 2020
On Sunday 02 August 2020, the Dean of Sheffield Cathedral spoke live to Edward Stourton on BBC Radio 4 Sunday. His words doubled down on previous claims about "fundamental problems" with recruitment and the concern that there were very small numbers of congregational worshippers, even when the choir "were singing beautifully". Acknowledging the attendance of congregational worshippers was not the fault of the singers, the Dean conceded that "Chapter have got to look very carefully at the pattern of services".
Questioned further on whether he thought the (now defunct) Cathedral Choir were "any good", he obfuscated. He said, "Every Dean always thinks their own choir is the best. But, we believe that actually we should be raising our ambition. And, we should be the best choir there can be in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. I don’t think we’re there yet, actually." No precise information was given as to the shortcomings of the choir; he simply stated that the Dean and Chapter wanted the choir to be "singing at a quality that’s thrilling ".
The Vice Dean had previously stated to the Sheffield Star: "This is not a Covid decision, and it's not a financial decision”. However, he revealed “the Covid situation focuses one's mind on the core things we are about" and that "chapter was unanimous". Probed about whether the Dean and Chapter's actions were like those of the most rapacious kind of capitalist firm taking advantage of a global pandemic, the Dean concluded: "given that it’s happened, it’s a good opportunity to rethink, begin again."
At the tail end of the interview, the Dean told former choristers to go and sing elsewhere. He said, "you know, there are other opportunities for singing for children in Anglican church choirs even quite close to us in Sheffield. If children really want to sing ... there are great opportunities for them to take up and we certainly want them to do that."
Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir are deeply sorry that distressed singers continue to be maligned by the Dean and Chapter, that a global pandemic has been used a cover for an act of musical and religious destruction, and that any pastoral care for the emotional well being of former singers has been abdicated.
Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir were subsequently contacted by the Daily Telegraph for comment.
"We agree with the Dean and Chapter that Sheffield Cathedral Choir should be raising its ambition. It's good to emphasise that we share this as a common goal but, unfortunately, the Dean and Chapter give no clear evidence as to how exactly it intends to deliver this ambition. In fact, we are yet to be given precise examples of how the present choir has been found wanting. In our view, Sheffield has been an example of high quality cathedral music-making over the last 20 years. Choirs inevitably go through highs and lows, but this is rarely due to circumstances the singers can control. Thinking that removing existing choristers will lead to a rise in excellence is naive and signals a complete lack of understanding about the choral sector. Developing a choir needs strong singers who can lead and mentor new talent. Finding singers who are above the standard of current members simply will not be possible (and anyone who has even a vague understanding of the choral scene in Sheffield is aware of this). In our collective experience, the choir has performed at a high standard on a regular basis as evidenced by numerous Radio 3 broadcasts, CD recordings and TV appearances."
Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir!
BBC Radio 4 Sunday: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000ldkl