Choral music to cease at parish church of the House of Commons, as choir is reportedly abolished

7 July 2020, 11:49 | Updated: 7 July 2020, 12:04

St. Margaret’s Church and choir, London
St. Margaret’s Church and choir, London. Picture: Getty

By Helena Asprou

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to devastate our communities, reports suggest a much-loved professional choir at the heart of London’s Westminster is to fall silent.

It seems the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on music and arts has now reached the heart of Westminster, with reports of the disbandment of the professional choir at St. Margaret’s Church on London’s Parliament Square.

St Margaret’s Church stands on a World Heritage Site beside Westminster Abbey. It’s known as ‘the parish church of the House of Commons’ and regularly holds services for Parliament.

On Saturday, classical music writer Richard Morrison revealed that the choral tradition of the 12th-century church was coming to an end, with the choir being abolished.

On their website, the church suggests that in the future “St Margaret’s will focus on service to Parliament and public life more broadly”.

The news comes after mezzo-soprano, Dame Sarah Connolly, and choral leaders, Bob Chilcott and John Rutter, penned an open letter to The Guardian last month, urging the British government to change their stance.

The letter read: “We need the government to show how we can restart singing together on an equal footing with opening theme parks, shopping and kicking a football around.”

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It continued: “Up until now we have had one of the most vibrant choral landscapes in the world. Our professional choral life, consisting of world-renowned chamber choirs, vocal ensembles, opera choruses, cathedral choirs and theatre ensembles, faces an uncertain future.

“The financial picture for such groups has always been challenging, even in the best of times, but the outlook now for such ensembles, mostly made up of freelance musicians, is not an optimistic one.”

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, added that the government needed to be more “proactive in ensuring music-making can return to our churches and cathedrals” to “safeguard our choral tradition which many believe to be the finest in the world”.

Following the announcement, many Twitter users have been keen to share their thoughts:

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, this feels like another tragic loss for British music.