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Sheffield Cathedral disbands choir for ‘inclusive’ fresh start

A cathedral is disbanding its 40-strong choir to replace it with a group of more diverse singers.

Officials at Sheffield Cathedral want the new choir to better represent Sheffield’s ‘mixed urban community’.

The choir was largely made up of private school students from the area and a handful of adult singers.

Letters have been sent to parents of children in the group, and choral scholars from Sheffield University were also informed earlier this week.  

Cathedral officials said ‘significant change’ was needed as they get to grips with a ‘renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion’. 

The Rev Canon Keith Farrow, the cathedral’s vice dean and canon missioner, said: ‘We fully expected people to have a sense of grief, because people are passionate about music.

‘Sheffield Cathedral has got a very strong heritage of music and we knew people would feel shocked by the news. We’ve understood that.

‘I think some people may think it’s the end of the cathedral choir – for us, we don’t believe that.

‘We believe it’s the beginning of a future where we can reach out into Sheffield and the surrounding area of the diocese in a way we’ve perhaps never done before.

‘We hope it’ll be bigger and as opposed to ‘a choir’ there will be ‘choirs’.

‘We want to reach out to young people who have probably never thought to join the cathedral.

‘We believe music is a very powerful way of transforming people’s lives. It touches people emotionally and spiritually. Cathedral music is astonishingly beautiful.’

Former Sheffield Cathedral choir member James Bingham, who now works for the Irish National Opera, took to Twitter to criticise the move.

He posted: ‘I sang as a choral scholar at @sheffcath for 3 years. I’m appalled by this statement.

‘It implies that the Anglican Church’s rich choral tradition is to blame for it’s declining influence.’

Rev Canon Farrow said the coronavirus crisis was not a factor in the decision.

He said: ‘The chapter was unanimous that we needed a new start where we could look at a choir and a music department that would reach even more people..’

The choir, which normally performs at services such as evensong and Sung Eucharist on Sundays, last met before lockdown was imposed in March.

Rev Canon Farrow said: ‘It could be several months before we’re allowed to even sing in a service.

‘We know it will return but it’ll take some time.’

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