Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cutback

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Nick Baty
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Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cutback

Post by Nick Baty » Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:32 pm

Seems odd to be posting here about someone I know and like. But for those of you who haven't seen today's Tablet, click here.

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VML
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by VML » Fri Apr 18, 2014 6:29 pm

Thanks for that clarification Nick. I could not imagine H Phil could have reached retirement age. A very difficult situation.

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by JW » Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:10 pm

I find it very sad that we have cathedrals who cannot afford to maintain a music director. After all, the Church in England has paid for it's music in its main churches for hundreds of years, presumably going back at least to John Dunstable (d. 1453) and probably much earlier.

The question has to be asked. What priority should music have in the life of the church? If we don't pay for it, then the quality of music will deteriorate (and I speak as a volunteer musician). Anglican cathedrals seem able to maintain their music tradition: why can't we?
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HallamPhil
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by HallamPhil » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:39 pm

There are ominous signs in Llandaff that all is not well in protestant cathedrals.

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by JW » Fri May 02, 2014 3:34 pm

It was good to see the strong support for the musical tradition at Hallam (and other cathedrals) from John Bell; there's a letter from him in this week's Tablet.
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by HallamPhil » Fri May 02, 2014 3:57 pm

If you read the letter again you will see that John is expressing strong support for a model of music-making that places the Assembly first whether it be in parishes or cathedrals. I am glad that he appreciated this to be the case in Hallam. This is not the experience in all cathedrals.

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by Nick Baty » Fri May 02, 2014 7:24 pm

Quite! Those cathedral MDs who understand liturgical music are very thin on the ground. Now, sadly, thinner!

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by HallamPhil » Fri May 02, 2014 9:23 pm

aw! That's kind o'ye (with apologies to those soon to be independent!)

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by JW » Sat May 03, 2014 6:32 pm

HallamPhil wrote:If you read the letter again you will see that John is expressing strong support for a model of music-making that places the Assembly first whether it be in parishes or cathedrals. I am glad that he appreciated this to be the case in Hallam. This is not the experience in all cathedrals.
Shows how often I get to a cathedral for Sunday Mass! Now I'm freed up I'll have to rectify that omission.
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by dmu3tem » Tue May 06, 2014 11:43 am

Yes, the situation at Llandaff is serious. The cathedral authorities restored the organ; but, for financial reasons, they then abolished the choir. As a result some people have refused to continue donating money to the cathedral, thereby compounding the financial problem.

Note that this is an almost exact replay - in real life - of the plot in Joanna Troloppe's book 'The Choir'. The solution there was to produce a best selling CD, producing the wherewithal to save the cathedral choir. Sadly, in real life, things do not seem to work out so nicely.

With both Llandaff and Hallam events underline the fact that musical establishments cannot take themselves for granted. They have to go out and 'sell themselves' in an entreprenurial way. I imagine that this was how the huge musical establishment at Leeds Cathedral was originally built up; I know that it was - and is - certainly the case at Blackburn Anglican Cathedral. It is not necessarily enough to say that paid church musical establishments perform a valuable religious-cultural service/experience; they have to market themselves.

Now this sort of thing raises disturbing and potentially unpleasant issues e.g.

[a] The fact that many musicians - and clergy - are otherworldly and have no natural aptitude for a entreprenurial activity. So they need other people in a church administration to do it for them. In Anglican Cathedrals this person sometimes seems to be the Dean.

[b] Entreprenurial activity has mercenary connotations. We cannot do without some consideration of money and marketing matters, but we find it sordid, mercenary and prefer to leave such things to someone else, whom we then (secretely) despise. Symptomatic is the difficulty local charities, cultural organisations and churches have recruiting treasurers. Judging by the general reluctance of people to come forward there seems to be an amazing ignorance amongst the general public about how financial and business matters work - or is this the excuse that masks a general reluctance to get one's fingers financially 'dirty' in work that seems boring and underappreciated?

[c] There is little doubt that, in certain circumstances, a vigorous vibrant entreprenurial musical culture can boost morale all round, fostering increased congregational attendence as everyone takes pride in the general musical ambiance and achievement. At the simplest level doting parents will come along to the services to watch - and hear -their offspring perform. A vigorous social culture partially associated with fund raising through such activities as choir/music group concerts, participation in parish fetes etc has similar effects. Throughout the general argument is that there will be some sort of religious 'spin off' as people are exposed to the messages and religious rituals enshrined in church services. It is therefore right to ask at what point does this cease to be true.

[d] The maintanence of a paid musical establishment is not necessarily all to the good, musically speaking. It can lock most - if not all - of the music making of a church into one setup and associated style (usually choirs and organs), with the potential to create muscial atrophy; not least because it creates a vested interest opposed to changes and new approaches promoted by volunteers from within the congregation or even coming in from outside. On the other hand sustained large-scale musical activity requires time and professional skills that cannot always be readily be accessed through reliance on volunteers. A further point is that (sufficiently) paid professionals can be told what to do by the authorities, especially if the latter have clear goals coupled with some technical musical understanding. When dealing with volunteers the roles can be reversed. The organisation has to be so grateful for any help it can get that to some degree it has to fall in with what these volunteers propose. Notice how, in this resume, the consumers - i.e. the congregation - often seem to be left out of such negotiations.
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by HallamPhil » Sun May 11, 2014 9:57 pm

Perhaps the previous writer needs to employ a spell-check for entrepreneurial (correct spelling) and then also a self-assessment as to whether business criteria should really be appropriately applied to the particular music ministry of this topic. Were the same criteria applied to our education deliverers they may be found wanting but often unnecessarily so. Education and perhaps liturgical performance also are not so easily assessed as to their value added nature. ignorance is sometimes bliss and in the case of the previous writer rather long-winded.

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by Dom Perignon » Sun May 11, 2014 10:56 pm

Don't be too harsh Phil - I'm sure Thomas means well and is trying to offer a constructive solution to what is becoming a serious problem, even though, like you, I don't agree with him!
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dmu3tem
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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by dmu3tem » Tue May 20, 2014 10:08 am

HallamPhil wrote:Whether business criteria should really be appropriately applied to the particular music ministry of this topic. Were the same criteria applied to our education deliverers they may be found wanting but often unnecessarily so.


On the surface this seems to prove my point. We find financial considerations and marketing distasteful, especially in a church context; but does that mean we should ignore them?

To carry such discussion further forward it might be sensible to identify exactly what aspects of 'business criteria' in the provision of music establishments are 'inappropriate'.

Here are two angles (there are others) people might care to explore:

: The difference between measures needed to raise money to pay for church music establishments and arguments surrounding whether church musicians should be paid.
: To what extent (if at all) does church music foster religion? In crude terms does it bring people into church to receive its benefits or is it just an excuse for musicians to play some music? Notice that this question gets 'close to the bone' when money is used to pay musicians, purchase music, hymnals and equipment (one of the most expensive being the maintenance of a Pipe Organ).

On education finance (and the means used to raise it) has long been a hot topic. At its heart lies the conflict between those who see education as job training vs. those who regard it as a forum for developing 'life' skills with little apparent financial benefit.
T.E.Muir

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by HallamPhil » Tue May 20, 2014 12:24 pm

Thomas, perhaps you should consider running this as a separate topic? Not all cathedrals have a musical establishment in the way that others do. At Hallam the financial investment to the cathedral's music was in one person and that part-time role is now redundant. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future and more particularly with today's announcement of a new bishop for Hallam.

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Re: Long-standing music director axed as £1m debt forces cut

Post by Southern Comfort » Tue May 20, 2014 9:00 pm

Precisely.

Thomas, you need to be aware that when financial considerations are given as the ostensible reason for dismissing people whom a diocese then laments, the actual reason is usually political. In the case of Hallam, £50,000 a year debt is peanuts, and not a reason for firing a valued minister to the diocesan community. Hallam is not the first example where people have been fired on the grounds of finance when the actual reasons were completely different. Forget all the financial stuff.

I too am intrigued by the thought of how Hallam is going to welcome its new bishop when it has just fired its cathedral and diocesan director of music. They can't legally take on someone else to fill the breach. Will they pay him to come back for the celebration as a one off? Would he agree if asked? Will it go off at half-cock (as has happened at diocesan celebrations elsewhere) ? Normally people in Phil Jakob's position are fired after the arrival of a new bishop, not just before....

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