Westminster Cathedral's professional choir is to be disbanded because of costs, said Mgr Francis Bartlett, the Administrator, this week. The decision was made by the Westminster Diocesan Council of Administration and the choristers received their notice on Thursday last week.
They will probably leave after next Easter Day's services. Mgr Bartlett regretted the decision, but explained "I have two empty pockets."
The choir consists of seven professional male singers. who are members of Equity, which deals with the Cathedral on their behalf.
The choir does a considerable amount of broadcasting and is appearing on BBC-2 next year, and is taking part in the celebrations marking the quincentenary of Windsor Chapel along with the choirs of King's College, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey
and St George's, Windsor.
The choir's standard can be judged by the comments of the critics following the joint concert (in front of the Queen) in St Paul's Cathedral in 1968. They unanimously said that Westminster Cathedral was the best.
The choir also makes cornmercial records and has sung in Rome (at the canonisation of the 40 martyrs); in Germany and Switzerland; and often gets invitations to go abroad. The latest is an invitation to visit Ghana.
• It is the only full-time professional Catholic choir in England and one of the few in Europe. The Anglicans maintain in the region of ten professional choirs.
Colin Mawby, Westminster Cathedral's Master of Music, said: "The present difficulties have arisen because the men have asked for an 18 per cent pay rise to keep up with the cost of living. The Cathedral ad
ministration hasn'tt the money to pay this and it has been recommended by the Diocesan Council of Administration that the men should all he given notice.
"Without its men, the Cathedral choir will cease to be an effective unit. Amateur men are not the answer because of (a) the difficulty of' singing in the Cathedral; (b) because of the size of the place; (c) the problem of getting them. Anyway, there is a considerable difference in standard between the amateur and professional.
"There can be no question that if this solution is adopted it will effectively mean the end of the Cathedral's musical tradition."
Mr Mawby suggested that an independent inquiry should be made to see if there was any way of financing the choir, perhaps nationally, as is done with the National Shrine in Washington.