Sheffield Cathedral tries to achieve zero congregation status.

Our Spiritual Advisers

Sheffield Cathedral is to get rid of its choir because, as Deputy Dean Canon Peter Farrow complains, it does not engage with “Sheffield’s mixed urban community.” But the cathedral’s worshippers will not be left comfortless, for new singing groups will be brought in to make “significant change for engagement, inclusion and diversity.”

Well, Canon Farrow and his fellow musical-spiritual iconoclasts are going about things the wrong way. If they are sincere in their wish for more diversity, then they will leave the choir where it is. How many such choirs are there in Sheffield? I bet there are more rappers, steel bands and rock groups. So the classically-trained youngsters forming the cathedral choir are to be sacked?

But a choir which sings traditional church music is the very sign of diversity. To disband such a choir is blatant and cruel discrimination against a minority. What happened to your zeal for inclusivity, Mr Deputy Dean?

But why leave this matter in the hands of the monkey when we can listen to the organ-grinder? Never mind his deputy, the Dean himself, Canon Peter Bradley, issued his definitive judgement: “Church music can be seen as elitist.”

I would alter only one word in his statement: “Church music should be seen as elitist.” Or does the Very Reverend Gentleman reckon we should prefer mediocrity instead?

The cathedral authorities claim to be working for the good of the whole community. I can think of no better way to contribute to the good of the community than to offer the benefit of the finest church music in the world in the form of plainchant, anthems and motets. There is enough “diversity” in Sheffield already: how about a little excellence?

When it comes to the benefits of church choirs, I can speak from personal experience. As a lad, I was an oik. Some of my friends say I’m still an oik. But if I’m a bit less oikish than I was, it is because back in the 1950s Fr Geoffrey Sowerby hauled me off the backstreets of Leeds, between the gasworks and Armley jail, and enrolled me in the choir at St Bartholomew’s.

The organist and choirmaster, John Watkins, was vigorous in his elitism. And why not? That neo-Gothic masterpiece St Bartholomew’s loomed like a Victorian grandparent over the smoky slums. But we slum-dwellers were shameless elitists, for our parish church housed the Schultze – one of the finest church organs in the world. And we sang the greatest music.

Fr Geoffrey used to say of me, “Peter is a brand plucked from the burning!” It was the slum elitism wot done it! Before I joined that choir, my musical experiences went no further than Bill Haley and Lonnie Donegan’s skiffle band – plus the occasional nostalgic rendering of George Formby’s When I’m cleaning Winders.

Within six months I could sing whole stretches of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis by heart. Our hymn books were full of tunes by Orlando Gibbons, Samuel Wesley and Vaughan Williams. And of course, if you sing the music, you can’t help but notice the words. Thus I was doubly-blessed by the free receipt of a musical-spiritual education. Better than free – choirboys were paid fourpence – that’s 4d – for each service.

Dean Peter Bradley is also Deputy Lieutenant, which is a step up from oikiness. Why then is he so ill-mannered as to steal from the people of Sheffield the music of such as Byrd and Tallis which saved my life? Deputy Dean Keith Farrow seeks “justice for the poor.” So why deprive Sheffield’s poor of the stuff that can really nourish them?

But these dignitaries are only inverted snobs operating social engineering and the politics of envy. Diversity? Don’t make me laugh! What they want is yet another steel band, yet another rap outfit and yet another “singing group” with all their patented inanities. Can’t they understand that their actions will not make Sheffield more diverse – but only a monochrome mediocrity?

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13 Comments on Sheffield Cathedral tries to achieve zero congregation status.

  1. V. Oh Lord, open thou my lips.
    R. And my mouth shall, like, y’know, beatbox thy praise.

    God is like cool
    He absolutely disseth mine enemies, like you know what I’m sayin, mofo?

    (O God, make speed to save us.)

  2. I recently read an old book called Timothy’s Song, written by William Lederer and beautifully illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. It’s about a hunchbacked orphan who sells newspapers on the street. He lives in a garret beside a church. He’s never been in the church, but he hears the choir singing regularly and believes it is angels singing. One evening he goes in, only to find that it is not angels but boys his own age. He is welcomed, and they let him take part, but, when he tries to sing, a horrible noise comes out – his larynx is ‘scarred’ from crying headlines all day, day in, day out. He is gently encouraged to listen for now. He is a very kind boy, to people and animals, and when he is kind, he hears songs in his heart, and it is his greatest wish to be able to sing these songs for God. After a long day selling newspapers in cold and rain, he falls seriously ill. He finds himself in a charity hospital, where he still insists on being kind to the other patients, despite the nurses having told him to stay in his bed. He dies. He finds himself in a green land where there are many flowers. Angels appear and take him to see God, who demands that Timothy sing. Timothy protests, knowing what his voice is like. So God shows him a vision of when Timothy had tried to sing in the church. But instead of the ‘foghorn’ noise of his real voice, he sings well, and they are the songs he hears in his heart. God tells him: “My son, in your heart you sang for Me. I heard it here in heaven. I heard it often, and it was good.”

    I just wanted to share this. I bought the book mainly for Ardizzone’s artwork, but I found the story unsentimental and touching. It stands in stark contrast to the smarmy tone of today’s books. It comes from a time, I suppose, when most people still saw nothing at all embarrassing about Christianity.

  3. Here we go again the social justice warriors and pc disciples that currently un the Church. These leftie hand-wringers are intent on destroying the glories of the Choral tradition in this country which does more to restore the soul than any of their feeble virtue-signalling , pc clap-trap. They are an insult to the to those that went before them and are failing the very people they are meant to serve. They are a complete disgrace.

  4. The church will doubtless complain, in years to come, that its congregations have left. Congregations, on the other hand, might well consider that the church has left them. Both will most probably be right.

  5. As I mentioned in a comment on a another post, we are now expected to equate the jungle-chanting of African ‘rap’ with Bach for the sake of ‘equality’. How long before the Sir Henry Wood proms include a Caribbean steel band and a ghastly ‘gangster’ rapper adaptation of a Henry Purcell composition? The very foundations of Englishness have been undermined by utopian vandals who revel in seeing the distillation of a thousand years of English culture systematically dismantled for disposal.

      • Many or most of us are wholly in agreement with DS.
        I reject those who wish away my own culture – which is DS’s, and quite possibly yours.
        Not all cultures and ideologies are of equal value. I have a very positive view of European culture.
        Bach is imo our greatest composer, to date. Purcell is superlative, too.
        Nina Simone, Aretha, Gospel, Blues, Soul, and much other black music is great, too.
        What do you make of Drill, Grime, &c, as you sound so “woke”? Dire.

        Thank you, Werdna, for pointing us to read more of DS’s no doubt highly engaging and stimulating views.

        • The sooner Mr Wedge and ‘Werdna’ scuttleback to the Grauniad, the better.
          You are not wanted here.
          Just like (c)rap music (I could spew rhymes like that at 3 years old. Mind you, I’d have had to be taught the accompanying obscenity).

          RIP Sheffield Cathedral.

  6. Tragic, and very wrong headed.

    Bet that this Diversity drive proves highly exclusive and will not embrace patriotic congregants or worship. (God’s remains a staunch nationalist, of course, as throughout holy scripture.)

    Great Britain used to run a third of the world.
    Now 3rd world thinking seems to run us!