From the current issue of Choir & Organ
So the axe finally fell at Llandaff. Just five days before Christmas – one of the busiest times of year for cathedrals – five lay clerks, one choral scholar and the assistant organist were made redundant. In our January/February issue, which had gone to press the previous week, we had gladly announced a stay of execution as the consultation period was extended following pressure from the professional music world, spearheaded by the Incorporated Society of Musicians. Our optimism was premature: whatever the reason for the extension – and for the sake of their credibility, the Chapter should allow no room for suspicion that the exercise was akin to the 1980s feasibility studies on coal mines that had already been condemned to closure – the decision came soon afterwards to save the Cathedral £45,000 through the redundancies rather than seek to avoid them by pursuing alternative fundraising plans, not least the Choir’s own. It stretches the imagination to interpret it, in the words of a Chapter spokesperson, as ‘the best and most responsible way to secure its long term future…’ It was a sad end to a troubled year at Llandaff, where the Dean resigned in May after a disagreement with the Choir about fees for a television appearance.
Despite a measure of public funding for music in the UK, there is a widely held view that music is expendable and that musicians don’t deserve to be paid (or paid much) because ‘they’re doing what they love’ (are we to assume bankers don’t enjoy their jobs?). Even in one of my local supermarkets, where shoppers can drop plastic tokens into tubs to indicate which organisation they would like donations to be made to, an excellent local junior choir that achieved a national profile was trailing decisively behind its competitors, whereas the tubs bulged for hedgehog rescue (I kid you not). We cannot wait for better times; we need to be proactive now to champion and protect this area of life and the values it stands for. So David Hill’s Letter from Yale (p.16) is timely, as he looks at funding strategies in the US. Yes, it is a wealthy country; but it is significant how many individuals and corporations channel money into the arts. There is no doubt that Americans appreciate the value of music, witnessed by their generous funding of university and church music departments (how many British organists and choir directors migrate across the Atlantic?); and this appreciation is matched by a professional approach to fundraising. It comes down to what we believe in and whether we’re prepared to fight for it. Can we learn from America, to help to prevent future Llandaffs?