Church of England Diocese of Guildford

The Cathedral Choir returns to Guildford Cathedral

18 Sep 2020, 10 p.m.
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In March, along with other cathedrals and churches throughout the country, we were instructed to close as a response to the pandemic, halting all services within the building. Whilst we were able to re-open in July with a limited and restricted number of services we have not been able to have any live singing. Although unable to sing live from March, both the boy and girl choristers continued to have rehearsals until the end of the choir term with Katherine Dienes-Williams, Organist and Master of the Choristers and Richard Moore, Cathedral Sub Organist. They recorded music and hymns so that services could be produced and broadcast via our YouTube channel, ensuring that, although we were not able to be together within the Cathedral, we were able to come together as a congregation and we could include people from around the globe. During the summer months when the choir was on holiday our Sunday services were pre-recorded with music contributions from 12 visiting choirs from the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

New guidance on singing recently issued by the Government and the Church of England has now allowed us to resume our choral services with our own choir. The return of the Cathedral Choir has been partially funded from the Church Commissioners, supporting churches and cathedrals to bring choirs back into places of worship. Although the guidance is new the risk assessments and safety measures for the resumption of choral rehearsals and services has been months in the planning. The Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford, said “Guildford Cathedral, like all 42 Cathedrals in England, is open to all people, of all faiths and none. The size of our building enables appropriate distancing, provides space for quiet reflection and refreshment and choral services which are inspiring. All are very welcome”

Our Covid-secure arrangements include the need for those who are attending a service on a Sunday to register via our website, congregation observe the one-way system within the cathedral and to wear a face covering (unless exempt). Our musicians, like the congregation, will be socially distanced from each other.

Choral Evensong will take place usually on Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays at 5.30pm. On Sunday at 9.45 there is a Choral service of Holy Communion and at 6.00pm a service of Choral Evensong. Those attending are advised to check the website for any alterations to timings.

As the choristers returned for their rehearsals this week, Katherine Dienes-Williams said “The look of pure delight on all our singers’ faces has been something to behold – the excitement is palpable. I am so delighted we have been able to provide a safe environment in which choral worship can resume and although we are apart as singers, appropriately socially distanced, we are together as a team once more and can continue our offering of song, bringing joy to so many people. We will be broadcasting Choral Evensong live on BBC Radio 3 at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday 30 September so do tune in.”

Notes to the Editor

Guildford Cathedral was built in the early 20th Century. It is the last Church of England cathedral consecrated on a new site (in 1961) and is a unique design by Sir Edward Maufe, combining Gothic tradition with a simple aesthetic of space and light. Standing on Stag Hill, visible for many miles, it has become a landmark building for Guildford and the surrounding areas. Although closed since 23 March due to the pandemic, Guildford Cathedral is now open for visits, private prayer and for services. The Cathedral site has been accredited as “Good to Go’ by Visit England, a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to reassure customers that businesses adhere to Government and public health guidance.

Our gift shop continues to be one of the most attractive and well-stocked independent shops in the area and offers a range of both secular and faith-based gifts from a wide range of local and UK wide suppliers.

Season’s Café & Kitchen is run for us by the expert catering team behind The Tipsy Pigs. The full-size banqueting kitchen copes with everything from coffee & cake to conferences & weddings. The team are also our preferred caterers for all events at the Cathedral.

The Cathedral Choir consists of 17 Boys, 22 Girls, 6 Lay Clerks, an Organ Scholar, a Sub Organist and the Organist and Master of the Choristers, ably supported by the Liturgy and Music Department Secretary and the lead choir chaperone together with many volunteer chaperones.