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In January 2020, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols commissioned a Strategic Review of Sacred Music in the Mission of Westminster Cathedral. The Review Panel, consisting of Robert Arnott, Leslie Ferrar, Mgr Mark Langham and Andrew Reid, was asked to consider the ‘steps needed to strengthen the role played by sacred music, as well as the structures and clarity of roles required for the continued development of the contribution of music to the mission of Westminster Cathedral, within the network of relationships between the Cathedral, its Music Department and Westminster Cathedral Choir School.’

In the Report, which has been presented to Cardinal Nichols, the Panel praises the high standard of sacred music in the Cathedral, which is ‘the fruit of substantial effort spanning a range of human and organisational agents,’ including the Administrator, the Precentor, the Music Department, Westminster Cathedral Choir School, and the Diocesan administration.

The report makes a number of recommendations, addressing the following areas:

  1. The issuing by the Cardinal of a foundational charter for sacred music in the mission of the Cathedral;
  2. Creating a multi-year strategy for sacred music;
  3. Establishing governance structure and framework outlining responsibilities, accountabilities and inter-relationships between the Cathedral, its Music Department, the School and the Diocese; and establishing a committee to coordinate efforts;
  4. Addressing the urgent and long-term funding needs;
  5. Addressing the complementary roles of the School and the Music Department in meeting the challenge of the provision of sacred music.

Summarising the findings of the report on behalf of the Panel, Robert Arnott said: 'The exceptional music produced by Westminster Cathedral and its celebrated choir places it at the forefront of worldwide Catholic liturgy. The members of the Review Panel find no reason why Westminster Cathedral should not continue to sustain excellence in sacred music. Our recommendations seek to offer both short- and long-term solutions, carefully building on evidence and expert analysis. This undertaking has been made wholly possible because of the autonomy, widely-drawn terms of reference, and freedom of inquiry that we have enjoyed.' 

The Cardinal today has issued a comprehensive response to the Report outlining the steps to be taken in response to the recommendations. He commented: ‘I welcome this Review. I appreciate especially its long-term perspectives and proposals for firm structures and patterns of communication. I ask all who express support for Westminster Cathedral Choir now to contribute positively to the great effort needed for its present and future flourishing.’

Fr Sławomir Witoń, newly-appointed Administrator of Westminster Cathedral, added: ‘I am delighted to welcome the contribution of the Strategic Review to a renewed vision of the long standing tradition of sacred music at Westminster Cathedral. I am looking forward to working together with the Music Department, the Choir School and my Cathedral colleagues on this challenging but necessary task of ensuring that one of the world’s great Cathedral choirs continues to enrich the beauty of the liturgy and prayer of the Cathedral for generations to come.’

Peter Stevens, Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral said: ‘I am grateful to the Review Panel for all their hard work over many months. I hope that the implementation of their report will give us all renewed clarity and confidence in our work of making music together to the glory of God in this very special place.’

On behalf of Westminster Cathedral Choir School, David Heminway, Chair of Governors, added: ‘The Governing Body is delighted to support the Cardinal and is fully committed to working positively and collaboratively with the Cathedral and its Music Department in strengthening and preserving the tradition of sacred music.’

The full text of the Strategic Review

The full text of the Cardinal's Response to the Review

Photo: Mazur/