Twenty-one choral scholars from Church of England Cathedrals across the south west of England have created a virtual evensong in lockdown to raise much needed money for the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund and to elevate the profile of the English choral tradition.
It will be broadcast on the Friends of Cathedral Music YouTube channel later this month and includes two new compositions, an introit by Paul Mealor and an anthem by Roxanna Panufnik. The lessons are to be read by former chorister and TV presenter, Alexander Armstrong, and the face of BBC Proms, Katie Derham.
One of our own Gloucester Cathedral Choral Scholars involved in the project. The choral scholars, from Bristol, Worcester, Exeter, Truro, Gloucester, Wells, Hereford and Tewkesbury Abbey, hope this project is the start of more regional collaboration digitally and physically, when it is allowed, and they want to use it as a springboard for better working together.
Daniel Maw, 23, is a third-year choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral and one of six scholars taking part from Exeter while the Precentor there, James Mustard will act as cantor.
“The English choral tradition is unique and really important to us all – it has certainly taken over my life,’ said Daniel. “We wanted to come together and use our connected network to show, as young adult musicians, our real passion for this musical tradition and being in lockdown created the perfect storm for us to do just that. I can’t think of my life without it,” he added.
Esmee Loughlin-Dickenson, 20, is alto choral scholar at Truro Cathedral.
“This project is going to be very special,’ she said. “I hadn’t done many virtual choir projects and I really wanted to do something very personal that I would be able to look back on and be very proud of. We’re all involved in it, it’s giving us a lot to do and it is definitely giving us a sense of purpose while we wait to hear when we can come back together again physically,” she said.
There are three choral scholars and the organ scholar taking part from Truro Cathedral and the Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Roger Bush will lead the Prayers.
He said: “This is all about the young people; they are doing all the organisation, all of the music-making, and all of the editing – and they’re doing it solely because of their love for choral music and the choral tradition.”
The Friends of Cathedral Music (now the Cathedral Music Trust) and the Ouseley Church Music Trust launched the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund to raise £1m to be able to make grants to cathedral choral foundations in need. It came after a survey showed that many choral foundations will struggle without additional funds once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The Cathedral Music Trust and OCMT have each committed £250,000 towards the target, and the Choir Schools Association (CSA) has now joined the partnership with an equal contribution. The fund now stands just short of £850k.
The Church Commissioners have just lent their weight to the campaign with the announcement they will support England’s cathedral choirs with up to £1.1m available to ease the impact of the pandemic.
The funding will pay the salaries of lay clerks (adult singers) for up to four months from the time it is safe to restart indoor choral services with congregations – it is hoped this will cover Advent and Christmas.
The scholars virtual evensong will be streamed on Tuesday 28 July at 6.30pm and can be found here.
You can take a sneak peek of the #scholarsevensong promo video.
You can also follow them on social media using the hashtag #scholarsevensong