Rhinegold Photo credit: Making Music

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Outrage as St Sepulchre’s stops taking bookings from musicians

1:12, 21st August 2017

The church of St Sepulchre’s in central London, known as the National Musicians’ Church, is to stop taking bookings from musicians.

The church, where Sir Henry Wood is buried, is regularly used by ensembles such as the London Youth Choir and City Chorus, but will close its hiring programme from 2018.

The decision has angered many musicians and music lovers, with composer John Rutter stating that it ‘flies in the face of Anglican tradition’.

Reverend David Ingall wrote to musicians on 9 August, stating that ‘competing pressures’ from church activities meant that there was no longer sufficient room for them, despite the church’s website stating that it is ‘filled with music and musicians throughout the week’.

The news was supported by an online statement, which reads: ‘An increasingly busy programme of worship and church activities has led to ever higher demands on the church space, and the hire space is also shared with the church administration office.

‘We remain committed to our ministry as the National Musicians’ Church. In the coming weeks we will reflect and pray, and consult with members of the musicians’ community about how best to fulfil that ministry moving forward.

‘Finally, we are committed to our on-going programme of weekly Choral Worship, and our on-going programme of choral and organ scholarships. We will maintain and develop our excellent professional choir, which recently recorded a new album to be launched in the Autumn.’

The statement notes that hiring will continue as planned for the rest of 2017, and all existing bookings for 2018 will be honoured.

Upon joining the church in 2013, Rev Ingall promised in a letter to maintain the church’s reputation as a ‘hub of musical excellence and enjoyment’, continuing: ‘I hope that this facet of the life of St Sepulchre’s will remain strong and vibrant going forward. I recognise though that there are concerns surrounding the impact of new ministries on this part of St Sepulchre’s life. There will need to be some rebalancing, as some times that were previously allocated to concerts and rehearsals will now be used for worship and ministry. However, I believe that the two streams are fundamentally compatible, and hope and think that they can both thrive going forward.’

However, according to the Times, ‘Mr Ingall oversaw a steady reduction of musicians’ use of the church, cancelling Sunday bookings and preventing the Henry Wood Room from being used for anything but prayer.’

At the time of writing, more than 5,500 individuals had signed a petition demanding that the Parish Council reverse its decision.

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