Twenty-one choral scholars, including Ollie Fulwell (pictured below), from Church of England Cathedrals across the south west of England have created a virtual evensong in lockdown to raise funds for the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund and raise the profile of the English choral tradition.

It will be broadcast on the Friends of Cathedral Music YouTube later this month and includes two new compositions; an introit by Paul Mealor and an anthem by Roxanna Panufnik, and the lessons are to be read by former chorister and TV presenter, Alexander Armstrong, and the face of BBC Proms, Katie Derham. 

The choral scholars, from Bristol, Worcester, Exeter, Truro, Gloucester, Wells, Hereford and Tewkesbury Abbey, hope this project is the start of more regional collaboration digitally and physically, when it is allowed, and they want to use it as a springboard for better working together.

Ollie Fulwell standing in the Canons Garden with the cathedral tower in the background. It is sunny and he is smiling for the camera

Ollie Fulwell, Hereford's tenor choral scholar for 2019/2020 returned home at the start of lockdown; "I got involved in this great project because I saw it as the ideal opportunity to continue what I was missing in Hereford, alongside like-minded scholars who are all in the same boat. Virtual projects provide very different challenges to what we’re used to so it’s been very interesting and worthwhile getting involved in several of these during lockdown, both in my singing and on my trombone. Obviously these projects can’t even begin to fill the hole left by Hereford and I will miss the singing, the people and all the opportunities so much but I’m just grateful that I got the chance to spend seven great months there."

The Friends of Cathedral Music (now the Cathedral Music Trust) and the Ouseley Church Music Trust launched the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund to raise £1m to be able to make grants to cathedral choral foundations in need. It came after a survey showed that many choral foundations will struggle without additional funds once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The Cathedral Music Trust and OCMT have each committed £250,000 towards the target, and the Choir Schools Association (CSA) has now joined the partnership with an equal contribution. The fund now stands just short of £850k.

The Church Commissioners have just lent their weight to the campaign with the announcement they will support England’s cathedral choirs with up to £1.1m available to ease the impact of the pandemic.

The funding will pay the salaries of lay clerks (adult singers) for up to four months from the time it is safe to restart indoor choral services with congregations - it is hoped this will cover Advent and Christmas.

The scholars virtual evensong will be streamed on July 28 at 6.30pm and a link to the page is here:

Background image of Hereford Cathedral courtesy of Photography by Steve Green