Sheffield Cathedral Dean resigns citing ‘tremendous pressure’ following decision to disband choir

5 October 2020, 16:57

Sheffield Cathedral
Sheffield Cathedral. Picture: Getty

By Kyle Macdonald

Dean who campaigned for big changes to cathedral music, and disbanded his choir, handed in his notice on Sunday.

After months of controversy, claims of bullying at the cathedral, and the end of a historic choral tradition, Peter Bradley has announced his resignation as the Dean of Sheffield Cathedral.

The Dean came under fire in July, following his decision to disband the cathedral’s choir. The decision impacted close to 20 boy and girl choristers, as well as several lay clerks.

Chorister parents reacted with fury at the news, claiming the young singers and parents were not consulted or considered in the decision-making of Dean and Chapter. There were also allegations of bullying at the cathedral, claimed by music staff and volunteers. An inquiry into the claims was launched in July by Bradley himself.

Over 8,500 people have since signed a petition to save the choir. In September the former musicians of the cathedral launched a new choir, the Steel City Choristers, to enable them to continue singing together.

The announcement of the Dean's resignation was made at the end of Sunday morning's service and later published on the Cathedral's website.

“You may be aware of the tremendous pressure I have been under over recent weeks which has seriously affected my health. After prayerful reflection and conversations with people who know me well, including the Bishop, I have decided that the time has come for me to move on,” he said.

Pete Wilcox the Bishop of Sheffield alluded to the choral music controversy in his response to the resignation, saying: “Cathedral Chapter has faced many issues this year with the pandemic, the fire and the difficult challenges over the summer in relation to the future of choral music and Dean Peter has been under extreme stress for a prolonged period.”

Bradley will remain in his post until 31 December 2020.

December brings plenty of opportunities to hear the Sheffield Cathedral Choir 🎼 Sheffield...

Posted by Sheffield Cathedral on Friday, 6 December 2019

Why was the Sheffield Cathedral choir disbanded?

In July, the cathedral revealed abrupt changes to its music department, in a massive shift to traditions on a site of 1,000 years of worship.

The announcement, made on the Cathedral’s website, said that after several years of reviewing the role of music in worship in the historic building, the Cathedral Dean and Chapter had concluded it was the right time to close the current Cathedral Choir. “A completely fresh start is needed,” they said.

The choir had consisted of 40 boys, girls and men singing regular services during the week.

In its place, the cathedral looked to “create a Music Department and Choir ready for the exciting future of the mixed urban community in which we live and work.”

At the time, Bradley told The Guardian: “The city is changing pretty quickly and we feel cathedral music needs to have a wider reach. We want to be more ambitious, and that means engaging with a wider group of children and reaching parts of the city we haven’t reached before.”

Following the announcement, musicians reacted to the news with dismay.

James Bingham, a former member of the Sheffield cathedral choir who now works for the Irish National Opera, said he was “appalled” by the decision.

Andrew Nethsingha, Director of the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge called the decision “irresponsible” and “short-sighted.”

It is believed that worship on the site of the Cathedral can be traced to the 9th century. The building of Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul, Sheffield dates as far back as the 12th century, having been rebuilt and added to over the centuries.

The church was elevated to cathedral status in 1914.