16 January 2020, The Tablet

The template in Europe is the Protestant Churches, who’ll ordain pretty well anyone

The template in Europe is the Protestant Churches, who’ll ordain pretty well anyone

There is an advertisement for a vulgar and expensive watch to the effect that you don’t actually own it; you merely look after it for the next generation. It is an approach I’d commend to Cardinal Vincent Nichols when it comes to the future of the Westminster Cathedral choir school whose future is now in doubt. The head of the school, Neil McLaughlan, is to change the boarding arrangements from seven days a week to five, a reduction that will make it impossible to maintain the standards required for a choir of the first rank. Now the director of music, Martin Baker, has resigned because his situation is now impossible.

Cardinal Nichols is a civilised and intelligent man. He should have seen off at the pass the argument that it was impossible to recruit boys for seven-day boarding. (Anglican choir schools manage to recruit on that basis in return for the best education a boy can get.) If children are to board for five days it makes it near impossible for boys outside London to join because their parents cannot collect them every weekend. More to the point, it is impossible to maintain a first-class cathedral choir if the choristers decamp at weekends. It is that simple. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a man with a genuine feeling for music, would have responded differently.

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