It concerns the plan for the world-famous, highly renowned choir of men and boys at Westminster Cathedral to sing four days a week rather than six. The boy choir program will shift from full-boarding to weekly boarding, with the boys going home on Friday and being brought back by their parents for Sunday singing.
This will mean that recruitment of boys will necessarily be limited to the local area, to the exclusion of boys who live father away (in Wales, for example) and until now could board the entire week.
It is disturbing to hear that the change was announced by the school management without a proper process of open consultation with parents or choir staff. Cardinal Vincent Nichols endorses the planned change.
The rationale put forth by the school is that recruiting choir boys – which is certainly a formidable challenge – will be enhanced if local parents are able to have their children at home every weekend.
The musical price is high – hence the charge of “cultural vandalism.” The quality of music from Westminster Cathedral Choir has soared to the heights it does because the choristers sing together six days a week. With the shift to four days a week, it is likely that WCC will no longer be at the level of the Anglican establishments at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral which still have full-boarding.
The Telegraph reports that parents have written to the Cardinal to protest the plan. It would strike “a critical blow to an important part of our national, international and Catholic heritage and tradition,” they write. It will “not only fail to support, but will actively damage the world-class standing of the choir.”
This story will be worth watching. The hope in some quarters is that the plan can still be stopped and proper consultation carried out between school, choristers, parents, cathedral musicians, and the master of music.