The crisis of the Westminster Cathedral Choir (January 3) is due to the arrogance of its own leadership which has isolated our foremost choir from the mainstream of Catholic music by ignoring the reforms of Vatican 2. The Council made provision for Latin, but also gave every encouragement to modern and vernacular,forms, yet these the Cathedral music has lamentably failed to provide.
As a result there has been a serious failure to assume leadership in all forms of sung prayer to God at the very time when such leadership is most needed. For all its fine singing, the Cathedral has failed in the prime task of providing for all liturgical needs both rarefied and humble — by combining the best of modern and traditional. A consequence of this failure is seen in the unwillingness of parishes in the diocese to support their own Cathedral. The problem goes deeper than finance.
Another issue involved concerns the times of Cathedral services. A substantially larger congregation could attend High Mass at 6 p.m. on weekdays — it would be considerably more convenient than the present 10.30 a.m. Mass. Serious consideration must also be given to the future of daily vespers.
The present crisis has been aggravated by a false impression recently created in some papers. If the choirmen leave after Easter, it is quite untrue to state that a great tradition will be permanently lost. The boys of the choir school will continue, alone if necessary, to maintain the Cathedral music. May I also add that it is time our young choristers were given the opportunity to sing much more in their own language.
A change of musical policy is urgently needed for Westminster Cathedral. If the present leadership cannot provide this, then it must be replaced. J. F. Marighetti Deputy Headmaster, Cathedral Choir School Westminster Cathedral
Choir School, Ambrosden Avenue, SW I .
It is almost unbelievable to hear that the Westminster Cathedral Choir is to be disbanded. If, as its distinguished conductor says, it is because the financial strain put upon the cathedral is more than it can bear due to the singers claiming a rise in salary, surely there are ,enough people among our Catholic population who would be willing to subscribe to a fund to keep the choir in existence.
It has been already acknowledged to be the finest church choir in the country even if we include the many splendid choirs of other denominations.
Is our principal cathedral — one that is visited by people from every part of the world — to allow one of its chief glories to disappear? I am sure that if Colin Mawby opened a national fund to ensure its survival there would be an immediate response from a great number of our Catholic people, particularly those who believe that cathedrals at the very least should be endowed with a good choir.
It is quite certain that the Church today in recommending congregational singing. has no intention of suppressing choirs, particularly in the larger churches and cathedrals where there is ample scope for both. I should be very surprised if others have not also written to you expressing indignation and dismay at this impending closure of a world famous choir,
Chaplain to the Hexharn and Newcastle Branch of the Catholic Music Association St Andrew's, Worswiek St., Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
As shortage of funds at Westminster Cathedral prohibits the maintenance of a salaried professional choir (January 3), then a volunteer amateur choir is called for. The standard would very likely he somewhat impoverished at its inception, hut over the years it would improve and the repertoire grow under Colin Mawby's patient and imaginative guidance.
In our ninth year at Farnborough Abbey. our choir of nearly 50 men and boys, have learnt to love music by Palestsina, Byrd, Victoria and later composers such as Stanford. Wood, Parry and Howells, while devoting equal attention to the Church's staple diet of Gregorian Chant.
We do not pretend to he professional, but our standard of performance has been raised by our affiliation to the Royal School of Church Music and all that can imply together with experience and enthusiastic team work. The audible result should be a tonic and source of encouragement to any lover of the beautiful and musical culture, surrounded as we are by the dead hand of complacent mediocrity or trendy sounds that pass by the name of music.
Congregations do not always want to sing and they cannot be compelled to do so by any liturgical authority, ancient or modern. Music conies from the' heart -and many, like Mary, have-chosen the better part -listening to their Lord through music, which inspired has stood the test of time. The annual cost is not £20,000; not even £1,000. But God forbid that the high cost of devotion should reduce Westminster Cathedral to folk and the electric guitar.
John Slater, Organist, Farnborough Abbey, Farnborough, Hants.