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Strategic review of sacred music in the mission of Westminster Cathedral

The Diocese of Westminster is undertaking a strategic review of the role of sacred music in the mission of Westminster Cathedral. The musical tradition of Westminster Cathedral, in its excellence, constitutes a crucial and powerful part of the mission of the Cathedral. The Choir of Westminster Cathedral is recognised as one of the finest in the world. Since its foundation in 1901 it has occupied a unique and enviable position at the forefront of English church music, famous both for its distinctive continental sound and its repertoire.

The review will 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 the Cathedral, within the network of relationships between the Cathedral, its Music Department and Westminster Cathedral Choir School.

A panel has been appointed to undertake this review over the next eight to 10 weeks, which will be completed by early April 2020. Members of the panel bring experience, knowledge and deep interest in the role of Westminster Cathedral and its great musical tradition.

Commenting on this announcement, Cardinal Nichols said: ‘In welcoming this strategic review of the role of sacred music in the mission of Westminster Cathedral, I thank most sincerely those who are going to conduct it. They do so with my full confidence.

‘Our musical heritage is precious and this strategic review is an opportunity to strengthen this heritage and look forward to the next ten years with confidence.’

In addition to consulting with a number of post holders and external experts members may wish to approach, the panel welcomes submissions from interested parties. These submissions should be made in writing by 17th February 2020, by email to strategicreview@rcdow.org.uk or by post to Strategic Review Panel, Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street, London SW1P 1QN.

Full details of the strategic review: 

The Cathedrals mission

Westminster Cathedral stands at the centre of London as a sign of the presence of the Body of Christ and the Church. In the words of the prayer of Dedication of a Church: ‘This visible house is where you never cease to show favour to your family on pilgrimage to you in this place and where you wonderfully manifest and accomplish the mystery of your communion with us.’ The Cathedral gathers a community, united in worship around the bishop, forming that community in prayer through the celebration of the sacraments, the preaching of God’s Word and the beauty of worship, and through ministry to all who come there, reaching out to those in need, especially the homeless. This mission of the Cathedral is carried out not only in its neighbourhood and parish, but also in the diocese and the entire city of London, also achieving a national profile and impact. The Cathedral is, then, a living sign of the Body of Christ – building charity, proclaiming mercy, striving for unity and peace through Word and Sacrament. In its mission, the Cathedral must constantly enhance and strengthen itself as it responds to the changing society it seeks to serve.

Music at the Cathedral

The musical tradition of Westminster Cathedral, in its excellence, constitutes a crucial and powerful part of the mission of the Cathedral. The appeal of sacred music has widened as it has become increasingly recognised as an expression of a profound spiritual dimension in human experience. The capacity of Cathedral music to touch the human soul is of immense importance.

The Choir of Westminster Cathedral is recognised as one of the finest in the world. Since its foundation in 1901 it has occupied a unique and enviable position at the forefront of English church music, famous both for its distinctive continental sound and its repertoire.

Comprising up to twenty boy trebles and altos aged eight to thirteen and ten professional Lay Clerks (adult singers), the Choir remains the only Catholic Cathedral choir in the world to sing Mass each day and Vespers on most days. The Choir also performs in concerts at home and abroad, and continues to make recordings, as it has done regularly throughout its existence.

Westminster Cathedral Choir School

Westminster Cathedral Choir School is a Catholic preparatory school for about two hundred and fifty boys aged four to thirteen, seventy percent of whom are Catholics. Some twenty of them are boarding choristers joining at the age of eight. Choristers sing to a world-class standard and musical standards across the board are outstanding. The school is academically selective and boys enjoy a demanding curriculum. The Independent Schools Inspectorate gave the highest possible judgements to the school in its most recent inspection (November 2018).

Aims of the strategic review

The aims of the strategic review, which will take eight to ten weeks and will be completed by early April 2020, are to consider:

  1. The steps needed, within the mission of the Cathedral, to strengthen the role played by sacred music, including talent, resources and capital.
  1. The structures and clarity of roles (governance, management, human resources, reporting, safeguarding) that are required for the continued development of the contribution of music to the Cathedral’s mission, within the network of the relationships between the Cathedral, its Music Department and Westminster Cathedral Choir School.

This strategic review will examine these issues with a 10-year perspective.

Panel for the Strategic Review

Robert Arnott, Director of Strategy, Social Mobility and Disadvantage at the Department for Education and Chair of Trustees of the Cardinal Hume Centre.

Leslie Ferrar, Non-Executive Director of Secure Income REIT PLC and Former Trustee of the Diocese of Westminster.

Mgr Mark Langham, Roman Catholic Chaplain of Cambridge University and Former Administrator of Westminster Cathedral.

Andrew Reid, Formerly Director of the Royal School of Church Music and Former Assistant Master of Music of Westminster Cathedral.

Consultation

The Panel will formally consult with the following current post holders:
The Administrator of Westminster Cathedral
The Chair of Governors and Head Master of Westminster Cathedral Choir School
The Assistant Master of Music of Westminster Cathedral
The Chief Operating Officer of the Diocese of Westminster
The Diocesan Director of HR

They will also consult with any other post holder, or external expert, they may wish to approach.

Submissions

The Panel will receive written comments and submissions from any interested parties, until Monday 17th February 2020.

Contact details

Strategic Review Panel
Vaughan House
46 Francis Street
London
SW1P 1QN

e-mail: strategicreview@rcdow.org.uk