Westminster Cathedral Announces Martin Baker’s Resignation
  • Westminster Cathedral Master of Music

    Yesterday it was announced:
    It is with regret that we announce the resignation of Martin Baker as Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral with effect from 31 December 2019. We take the opportunity to thank him for his dedication and service over the past two decades and wish him the very best in his future career.

    Today the Diocese will start to address these new circumstances created by Mr Baker’s resignation. A further announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    A casualty of the strife over the changes at the school, may one wonder?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    I don't know if speculation on other people's employment is helpful. People do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons.

    It does seem that it will be difficult to maintain the choir's distinctive sound, which is strongly male, even in the treble range, under the new system. There are just fewer boys to choose from as a local, 5 day choir.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • Of course it's strongly male. It's a MEN AND BOYS CHOIR and should remain so. It will NOT be difficult to maintain and continue if operated correctly. "Even in the treble range" to me hints of a desire to introduce girls into the treble section which would destroy this choir. This line has been used with many other all male choirs in order to destroy their uniqueness. I have seen this happen and said just this way. WHY CAN'T ALL FEMALE CHOIRS BE ESTABLISHED AND LEAVE MEN AND BOY CHOIRS ALONE? ARE THEY A TREAT? It causes me enormously great offense and anger as feminist all over the world have sought out to change historical traditional choirs like this especially in cathedrals.

    Finally, there are NOT fewer boys to choose from! This is a false statement and a lie at worst or ignorance at best (NOT TO MENTION STRIKES AT BEING LAZY TO DO DUE DILIGENCE AT ONE'S WORK AND TO BE GENUINELY SUPPORTIVE). One by one I have seen the great all male choirs destroyed for various reasons and all based on modernistic feminism and new age systems of pseudo inclusion and supposed new perspectives of Christianity based on intentionally wrongful and demonic infiltration and attacks on the foundations, theology and long held traditions of the Church. Can you tell that this hit home to me? ABSOLUTELY IT DOES! My blood is just boiling over this!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    Ken, you completely misunderstand me.
  • If I do, my sincere apologies. The subject is very painful and extremely hurtful to me having been in 3 separate men and boy choirs that were destroyed by uber liberal clergy and others hell bent on pushing their ideology. Again, if I misunderstood you, my apologies. My temper was kindled after reading that article.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    No worries.

    This particular choir has a tradition of strong male singing, even in the treble range, unlike many other boy choirs. You can hear it in very old recordings, and it has come to be part of this choir's distinctive, and I think exemplary, sound.

    In order to keep that sound, I believe the choir has been very selective regarding recruitment. That is much more difficult when the target area is circumscribed.

    I personally think that the boarding school was worth preserving for these reasons.

  • I am not absolutely certain, but I believe that the Westminster choir follows the European tradition of having boys not only on the treble but also the alto line. All other English choirs have boys in the treble and male altos or countertenors in the alto register. These differing arrangements make for noticeably different tonal results in the respective choirs.

    I noticed some years ago that the Westminster choir seemed not to have the brilliance in the inner voices that other English choirs had. Careful listening revealed that boys, not men, were singing the alto line.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,705
    From the Westminster Cathedral website:
    Comprising up to 20 boy trebles and altos aged 8-13 and ten professional Lay Clerks, the Choir remains the only Catholic Cathedral choir in the world to sing daily Mass and Vespers, whilst also performing concerts at home and abroad.
    This confirms what MJO and I thought was the case with respect to boy altos.
  • What kind of parent would send an eight year old child to boarding school 7 days a week? Five would be bad enough - but seven?
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 349
    What kind of parent would send an eight year old child to boarding school 7 days a week? Five would be bad enough - but seven?


    One who recognizes a gift and a love for music in their child, and sees he wishes to have the opportunity to explore it to the fullest, while receiving an excellent education.

    At 8, I was playing the piano or organ 3 hours a day, and would have dearly loved to have been packed away to choir school.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,722
    Somewhat troubling to see that although the full choir was supposed to resume on 5th January, no music lists have appeared on the usual website.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,705
    Well, Baker's tenure ended on 31st December 2019, and he was likely the one who selected the music.
  • Pax,

    Boarding schools aren't just for the five days of the school week. Choir schools (take St. John's, Cambridge, or Kings' Cambridge as obvious examples) have fewer vacation days than other boarding schools.
  • ...kind of parent would...
    HUMPH!!! What kind of parents WOULDN'T send their son to a choir boarding school which boards seven days a week if he had the gift and the desire??? Such a beautiful education is beyond priceless, and there could be no greater or more loving gift from one's parents.

    Every-day life at both St Thomas', 5th Avenue, and King's College, Cambridge, can be viewed on youtube. The experiences of these fortunate lads is priceless. What a blessing to have such parents and such schools.
  • What kind of parent would send an eight year old child to boarding school 7 days a week? Five would be bad enough - but seven?


    My parents. I thank them every day that I had that kind of intensive musical education at the highest professional level. I would not, in any way, be the musician I am today without it, and I loved every minute of it. Would that more children could have the immense privilege of this kind of musical education.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,151
    They are holding a review, https://rcdow.org.uk/news/strategic-review-of-sacred-music-in-the-mission-of-westminster-cathedral/?fbclid=IwAR1RakhVEhrpmlyrmAPer9nHxvXXIXav7MVb5Fv8oNFgYZxAwtiaSbbhyc0

    I notice that the choirs are still singing but the music list is no longer published on the website.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,128
    From a source that I know close to the situation: The Spectator article is very accurate.
    Thanked by 2Salieri CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,562
    the sex scandal is the ruin of much... in my mind, our ENTIRE Church is in shatters, mostly over this single 'issue' (the more accurate term is 'sin').
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,792
    Charity and manners demand that I not say what I'm currently thinking, as there are ladies and clergy on this Forum. Suffice it to say that the situation at Westminster RC is deplorable, and this 'strategic review' is more than likely going to do nothing good, as is the case with civil service-style navel-gazing.

    The line that sounds the most problematic to me is (Emphasis added):
    In its mission, the Cathedral must constantly enhance and strengthen itself as it responds to the changing society it seeks to serve.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    Considering property values in Westminster, that more credibly means . . . more Russian chants.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    Westminster Cathedral has the most ethnically diverse congregation I have ever seen. Who comes in second? The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC.

    High liturgy draws people who love God, and people who have struggled through hardships with God's help love God.

    Do you want to see saris and African dress at Mass? Go to a place where the liturgy is beautiful.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,271
    True, Kathy. Our African Catholics are attracted by decent liturgy and music. I haven't found them at folk, or so called "contemporary" masses.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    I wouldn't generalize....
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,271
    It's interesting. Our Africans are from Cameroon. One of our PC folks who tries to pander to everyone, asked one of them what they sing for Christmas in her native land. She said, "O Come All Ye Faithful." They seem to fit right in with our more traditional English masses.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,792
    Haha. Someone here asked a parishioner from Haiti what her favorite Communion song from her country was; Answer: "Adoro te, devote".
  • redsox1
    Posts: 202
    Whole I was at the Shrine in the mid-90’s, I planned and played for the 1:30 pm NO Latin Mass, which was staffed by a cantor. We had a very ethnically diverse congregation. The chant singing was always full-throated! It was very inspiring.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • It is good to see that the choir has one final recording under Baker to be released at the end of the month, an album of Holy Week music on the new Ad Fontes label.

    https://www.adfontes.org.uk/catalogue/martin-baker/vexilla-regis/
    Thanked by 3tomjaw CHGiffen Kathy
  • Haha. Someone here asked a parishioner from Haiti what her favorite Communion song from her country was; Answer: "Adoro te, devote".

    You are lucky.

    Many people from African countries have been done a dreadful dis-service by the poor musical skills and lack of musical discernment displayed by many missionaries. There are things which western countries tried in the 1960s/70s, which were rightfully dropped from the church repertoire - but which are still very widely used in Africa and some parts of Asia.

    And I say that as someone who dislikes (and cannot pray with) much of the music which people here hold dear.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    Btw, speaking of English choral sounds, it's interesting that there's not been any commentary on the revolution in the King's College (Cambridge) Choir's sound manifested on international broadcast on Christmas Eve. It shows how, will an excellently skilled ensemble (choral or orchestral), a change in skilled directors can effect change much more quickly than with less skilled ensembles.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen BruceL
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    I agree, Liam!!

    Perhaps this deserves a new thread as well.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    (I have a recording. Family member was listening and agreed with me that we were witnessing a revolution (hard to deny with that forthright treble opening to Once In Royal David's City - no wee little King's College treble sound that), and downloaded the feed and converted with his audiophile technical skills and tools. Cannot readily share it with others, too big to email.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,709
    Liam, big files can be shared using a service like Dropbox. Once you upload a file or make a folder, then it's possible to create a link for others to read the file.
  • Liam,

    I haven't been able to devote the time to keeping up with the goings on at King's college, so I hope you'll excuse the Philistine's question: Is this "revolution" an improvement?
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,060
    @Liam will have to listen. I didn't this year. But yes, even hearing the difference from pre-Willcocks, to Willcocks, to Cleobury has been interesting. Hyde's St. Thomas was a nice sound, if not quite as polished as John Scott's (in my opinion).
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,792
    Ord, Willcocks, Ledger, Cleobury, Hyde, all had/have their own sounds.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    Chonak

    I am quite aware of that. Between Air Drop and that, that's how the family member and I worked with the files.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,373
    "Is this "revolution" an improvement?"

    Perhaps not if one has a special fondness for that what my British chorister friends referred to colloquially as "wee" sound that KCC cultivated in its trebles, which fondness I don't share.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • Now the Music Administrator has resigned leaving this resignation letter.
  • Astonishingly callous is the politest thing that can be said about the 'powers that be' at Westminster.
    Again, yet again, we see that too many of those who have positions of authority in the Catholic Church are without conscience and are either culturally illiterate and/or couldn't care less about the state of music in the Church - or about those whom they hurt.
    Fiendishly, mercilessly callous!
    This is not just a loss for Westminster - it is a loss to all of us (but what do they care?).

    Let us pray for all those everywhere, young, mature, and old, who are victims of such pitiless administrations.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,792
    It's simply astonishing to me how the headmaster of the CHOIR SCHOOL would refuse to let CHORISTERS take part in the CHOIR and its activities---Isn't that what a CHOIR SCHOOL is supposed to be about???!!!???!!!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Speaking of Choir Schools - I'm currently reading a fascinating book about the near one thousand year history of the Choir School at Sarum (Salisbury Cathedral). The boys have seen good and bad days, coddled and pampered by some, such as St Osmund, the founder; and at times foisted off to make their best of it in the town. Somehow they have survived to sing the daily praises of God since the tenth century.

    The book is entitled Sarum Close, and is by Dora H. Robertson. The publisher was Firecrest and it was published in the 1930s. If a copy can be found at Amazon or elsewhere it would be well worth the price. An enriching account for all who love Church Music and those who make it.
  • This echos very much a situation that my own Alma Mater faced in 2016. Such a sad situation. One can only hope that it isn't going to mean the death of the Catholic Choir School.
  • I just checked Amazon and Sarum Close is indeed available for about $15.
    Another charming book on the subject is Quires and Places Where They Sing, by Sir Sidney H. Nicholson (1954), also available from Amazon - about $25 for a used copy and, if one is sufficiently well endowed, a new copy for $967.
  • Well, I thank you both for those good reading suggestions. I just ordered them both.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,037
    What, if any, steps to rectify the unfortunate developments in the choir school at Westminster have been undertaken that would make this post attractive to Simon Johnson.