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London East and South East

Leading musicians fight church’s ban on secular bookings

todayAugust 24, 2017 12

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In a letter published on Thursday in the Guardian, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn is questioned for being “willing to abandon” its “unique national cultural remit”.

Choir member Richard Robbins, who is leading the campaign to reverse the concert ban at the place of worship known as the National Musicians’ Church, told Premier he was inspired to create the campaign by his colleagues who sing there regularly.

He said: “I just thought, this is a really great cause to stand up for, professional and amateur musicians across the country have used this church for decades and it would be such a shame if that was to change.”

Robbins online petition against the change has attracted more than 6,000 signatures.

At St Sepulchre’s – which is now part of the Holy Trinity Brompton network – said it made the decision as it was being increasingly swamped with bookings.

Robbins told Premier that he doesn’t agree the Church should prioritise Christian bookings over non-Christian bookings.

Speaking during News Hour, he said: “I think they go hand-in-hand together. I don’t think it’s a binary choice between music or ministry because they go so closely together.

“Also musicians that have supported St Sepulchre’s in the years of their higher fees and donations – they’re friends and supporters of the church. I don’t think it’s fair to alienate them in this way.”

The church, which has the ashes of the founder of the Proms, Sir Henry Wood, in its north chapel was said by a spokesman for the church to have been “greatly moved” by the reaction to the decision.

The church has also been supported in its controversial decision.

Dr Ian White from Victoria Baptist Church in Eastbourne told Premier when the news first broke that the musicians should respect the church’s decision.

He said: “I can understand their regret over this and I would hope that they would be able to appreciate that churches don’t just exist as places to meet or to play music.”

Speaking about the importance of the church to musicians, Robbins said: “It’s the most glorious space – it’s the biggest parish church in London. It’s got the most beautiful acoustics…there are chairs which can be taken out.
“There’s such a tradition built up there. There’s also the musician’s chapel which has got a Book of Remembrance of famous past musicians as well…would only Christians be signed in that book from now on?”

Some of the most famous names in music are recorded in the Book of Remembrance. New names are inscribed each year and an annual service, open to the public, is held when the new names are read out aloud.

Premier contacted St Sepulchre-without-Newgate for a comment on the campaign but is yet to hear back from them.

The Parochial Church Council of the church recently took the decision to close its hiring programme from 2018. Hiring will continue as previously planned for the rest of 2017, and all existing bookings for 2018 will be honoured.

Listen to Richard Robbins speaking with Premier’s Marcus Jones:

More than 50 prominent musicians including Aled Jones and Julian Lloyd Webber have called upon a London church to reverse its ban on non-Christian music.

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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