Outreach Coordinators Reunited!

CSA and The Friends of Cathedral Music(FCM) recently brought together representatives of a number of outreach singing projects linked to cathedrals. The day-long conference, hosted by Lichfield Cathedral School,  renewed some of the relationships and networking established when CSA’s Chorister Outreach Programme (COP) was part of  government-funded National Singing Programme known as Sing Up.  At the same time we welcomed a number of new faces.

Delegates came from a wide range of contexts, from inner city to very rural, historic foundations such as Salisbury and St Paul’s Cathedral to the parish church of St Peter’s, Wolverhampton and Cathedral Isle of Man which was consecrated in 1980 and recently launched a ‘Music Renaissance’ plan with  significant singing outreach strand.

Sing Up is celebrating its 10th birthday this month and nearly all 42 projects that were funded a decade ago are still running successfully, in a variety of guises. Many of the projects clearly relish the freedom they now enjoy to devise a model that works for their local situation, rather than having to fulfill the very specific requirements of a national programme.

The day’s topics included funding strategies and repertoire. Jenny Mason, Music Hub Manager for Staffordshire, with contributions from Cathy Lamb, Director of Lichfield’s MusicShare programme, explained how the Music Education Hub works. MusicShare has expanded since its modest set up in 2003 and worked with 14 music services in the West Midlands before becoming part of the Staffordshire and Stoke MEH.

Our afternoon speaker was Charlotte Kitson, who introduced us to the extraordinary Schools Singing Programme in the RC Diocese of Leeds, led by Tom Leech.  It employs six choral directors to work with more than 3,500 children every week in 53 schools. There is additional administrative support, a choral conducting scholar, two organ scholars and twelve choral scholars in the team.

Charlotte stressed the importance of not underestimating what young people may enjoy or to shy away from including classical and traditional religious pieces in the mix. Children in the Programme regularly sing renaissance motets and plainsong, with ‘Guadete’ currently proving very popular in the run up to Christmas.

It was an uplifting and inspiring day that show-cased just a hand-full of the excellent projects operating all over the country under the auspices of our cathedrals and choir schools.

Below left to right: Ralph Allwood, Max Smith (Cathedral Isle of Man), Clive Marriott (Head, Salisbury Cathedral School) and David Evans (DoM, Hereford Cathedral School) swap notes over coffee.