Cathedral music is “hot”!

Gloucester Cathedral, where I attended the Three Choirs Festival this summer.

Gloucester Cathedral, where I attended the Three Choirs Festival this summer.

Did you see the article written by Simon Jenkins in The Spectator? It could not have come at a more opportune time in this period of grieving and loss of a music program in Honolulu. The title is intriguing: Why cathedrals are soaring: The Church of England’s unexpected success story. Click here to read the entire article.

He begins, “Something strange is happening in the long decline of Christian Britain. We know that church attendance has plummeted two thirds since the 1960s. Barely half of Britons call themselves Christian and only a tiny group of these go near a church. Just 1.4 per cent regularly worship as Anglicans, and many of those do so for a privileged place in a church school.

Fan vaulting in Gloucester Cathedral

Fan vaulting in Gloucester Cathedral

Yet one corner of the garden is blooming: the 42 cathedrals. At the end of the last century, cathedrals were faring no better than churches, with attendances falling sometimes by 5 per cent a year. With the new century, everything changed. Worship in almost all 42 Anglican cathedrals began to rise, and it is now up by a third in a decade. This was in addition to visits by tourists, who number more than eight million. There are more visits to cathedrals than to English Heritage properties.”

Basically, the article says that cathedrals have become community centers, and venues for not only classical, but rock concerts, lectures, conference, workshops, art galleries and the like. But also it makes no demands on you, as in a parish church. No pressure to tithe or sign up for a committee.

What is surprising is that Jenkins says that attendance at the midweek evensong is booming, and has doubled in the last decade. One sentence really stood out for me: They come for the music.

Interior of Wells Cathedral where I visited in July.

Interior of Wells Cathedral where I visited in July.

This is another paragraph that stood out for me: A cathedral is a true museum, however much modernist bishops and deans hate the term. It embraces architecture, sculpture, painting, stained glass, wood-carving, calligraphy, embroidery and, above all, music. Its contents are displayed not in cases but beneath walls and roofs of unsurpassed beauty, intended by their builders as composite works of all the arts and crafts.

I hope the same appreciation for cathedrals and their music can resurge in America! As once was said at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, “music is an outreach project of evangelism.”

Look at what Erin Severin wrote: (wife of my student Steven Severin, new organist of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church)

I am a lifelong musician; I have been singing in choirs since I was 10 years old. I am not, however, a lifelong Christian; I was raised in a secular household and was (and remain, to an extent) a skeptic in the realm of spirituality. I joined the choir at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church several years ago, a young music student looking to gain some extra choral experience. I had no intention of becoming religious, but soon, the magic of Anglo-Catholic liturgy overwhelmed me and I found myself drawn to the mystery of faith. None of this could have happened without music in worship. I would have never stepped inside of the church if I had not done so through music.

My story is not unique. Countless people throughout history have been drawn to the church through the gift of music and song. Choirs have long been the welcoming arms of church programs throughout the world. Music ministry has the power to transport people from their everyday lives into the Holy Spirit. Without music, countless wandering souls like mine would never find their way inside a church.

Amen to that!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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One Response to Cathedral music is “hot”!

  1. Timothy Carney says:

    I love this article and your blog about it, Kathy. And Erin’s story should be required reading for the Bishop and Chapter of St. Andrew’s as they dismantle a choral program built on decades of hard and dedicated work by John McCreary, Arlen Sunnerborg, and John Renke, and countless others before John arrived in the 1960’s. I can only imagine how many people, singers and congregants alike, have similar stories.

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