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Sacked Cathedral choir sings its last

With perfect Christian timing, Landaff Cathedral sacked its seven adult choristers in the week before Christmas. Last night, they sang their last. David Hutchings was there for Slipped Disc:

 

 

llandaff choir

Last night, in their final concert, Llandaff Cathedral Choir gave a performance of the utmost professionalism, not simply singing beautiful music for us, but thoroughly entertaining, justifying every penny that has been spent upon them. After today, the professional adult members of the choir have been made redundant, along with the deputy organist, Sachin Gunga.

Anyone familiar with the traditional setup at a Cathedral will be aware of the vital role the deputy plays in either accompanying or conducting the choir. In the absence of an incumbent Cathedral Dean, with a Canon who was ill in bed, it fell to one of the assistant clergy to welcome the congregation and introduce the concert – one of the few clergy at Llandaff – who has been steadfast in his support for the choir and music over the years. So did the choir let anything mar their performance in any way?

Not a bit of it. They showed musical flair alongside their trademark flexibility with a selection of rousing carols including Whitacre, Rutter and Mathias, along with a particularly beautiful setting of the Ave Maria sung far in the depths of the cathedral body, out of sight. It was the redundant men of the choir led by Gunga, the outgoing deputy organist, who stole the show, rebranding themselves as ‘The Low Rangers’, Donning DJs rather than choir robes and stunning their audience with a hilarious ‘Once In Royal David’s City’, in Gunga’s spectacular showstopping arrangement.

To round off the concert, we were invited to sing in what might go down as the most rousing ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ ever sung in the Cathedral. Cue the longest standing ovation I have witnessed in Llandaff.  Time to go home then. But not before the conductor, Richard Moorhouse, stood to pay an impassioned tribute to all the choristers, choirboys included, who will be kept on without the motivation of working alongside their adult role models.

Moorhouse praised the courage, determination and loyalty of his choristers, as well as their creativity in coming up with fundraising proposals (which I have been informed were not given due consideration by the administration). Their professionalism throughout, we were told, is evidenced simply by their presence here tonight, in the capacity of entertainers. We would finish, he told us, with something the choir sing day in, day out at evensong, the Magnificat in D by George Dyson. Before returning to conduct the choir for the last time, he closed with the words ‘Gentlemen, it has been a privilege’. The Magnificat was sublime, there were tears all round, a second standing ovation and the quickest, most tearful exit I have seen from a cathedral choir.

And listen here to more of the service.

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Comments

  1. John Balaam says:

    I expect Mr Moorhouse at least spelled “privilege” correctly, even if your correspondent cannot.

  2. Absolutely terrible and fundamentally unacceptable in the face of hundreds of years of British choral/cathedral tradition. For the deep spiritual and artistic connections between the music and the act of worship – or simply the art form itself – the cost of maintaining the choir as an institution should be immaterial. And in Wales, of all places. A shameful decision and a disgraceful precedent should it become one.

  3. Without any context as to why this “sacking” occurred, including any discussion of the cathedral’s finances, it’s hard for me to make any judgment about this issue. I’m sorry but, as Mr. Prior puts it, “the cost of maintaining the choir as an institution” is, indeed, a material issue — pun intended!

  4. One of the biggest problems was the unwillingness of cathedral authorities and bigwigs to enter into anything more than tokenistic discussions where the outcome was always a foregone conclusion and no effort was made to engage with the multitude of fundraising proposals put forward by the choir. Most of us for this reason are also in the dark. To give just a bit more context, the cathedral recently installed a new organ worth 1.5 million pounds with its primary purpose being to accompany the cathedral choir. The instrument was built before the fundraising took place amidst the kind of financial mismanagement which has blighted the cathedral in recent years, and is but one example of the short sighted thinking which now plagues the cathedral.

    It is sad that the choristers will suffer for this. At least the manager of Cardiff City FC has had a rethink on reopening dialogue with Malky Macky. It seems the management at Llandaff style themselves on the owners of Premier League football clubs however…

  5. Bill McFarlane says:

    What on earth are they thinking????????This makes no sense at all.

  6. Paul Edlin says:

    May we learn more about this, please? This is a story that needs to be told. I would like to know the full facts in deciding to so drastically diminish, indeed potentially destroy, a cathedral choir in this way

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