CONCERNS are still being raised regarding the future of choral music at Winchester Cathedral.

As previously reported, Dr Andrew Lumsden will leave his position as head of music at the cathedral on July 31.

Former choristers have expressed their fears over Dr Lumsden’s departure, as well as the departures of organist Claudia Grinnell and, in 2021, George Castle.

Now, one lay clerk, Toshi Ogita, has broken ranks to write a public letter to Philip Mountstephen, the Bishop of Winchester, asking him to intervene.

Andrew Lumsden receiving his honorary doctorate in 2023Andrew Lumsden receiving his honorary doctorate in 2023 (Image: Winchester Cathedral)

READ MORE: Fears for the future of music in Winchester Cathedral

In Mr Ogita’s letter, which he published on the Choral Evensong Appreciation Society Facebook group, he says that “the community around the church is being destroyed”.

The letter says: “Lack of swift action is turning people away from the church." 

He criticises the Dean and her position, and adds: "If the cathedral is not to lose its credibility for decades, an external reviewer must be urgently appointed, to conduct a review into the Worship department.

“Winchester’s reputation amongst musicians has been utterly compromised for some time now. Those that want to lend their talents and skills of decades in training for the praise of God are being turned away.

"The Choral Foundation provides an invaluable opportunity for children and adults alike, and does so much good for the community. Without a reputable director of music, decades of work will be rapidly undone.”

A spokesperson from the Bishop of Winchester’s Office said that he remained 'as fully engaged as he can be' and that he would be keeping the matter under review. 

They said: “The Bishop of Winchester maintains a keen interest in the life and worship of the cathedral and meets regularly with both the Dean and the senior non-executive member of Chapter.

"He is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of all within the cathedral community, and he understands that the cathedral has been working hard to listen and respond to the issues that have been raised.

SEE ALSO: New interim director of music appointed at Winchester Cathedral

“However, given the formal relationship of a Bishop to a cathedral, and the governance arrangements of the latter, the matters raised are properly ones for the Dean and Chapter, rather than for the Bishop. More specifically, HR matters are necessarily confidential and he is not party to them." 

They said that the formal power a Bishop has in relation to a cathedral is the historic power of Visitation, and a newer power to commission a Review under the Cathedrals Measure 2021.

Bishop Philip has previously initiated a Visitation elsewhere, but the spokesperson said 'he is prepared to do so when it is deemed absolutely necessary'.

“The Bishop remains as fully engaged as he can be in order to support those concerned and promote the cathedral’s continued flourishing,” they said.