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Westminster Cathedral’s Master of Music resigns

Westminster Cathedral Choir (Getty)

Martin Baker has resigned as Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, the diocese has announced.

In a brief statement, the Diocese of Westminster said that his resignation had taken effect on New Year’s Eve.

The statement said: “Yesterday it was announced: ‘It is with regret that we announce the resignation of Martin Baker as Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral with effect from 31 December 2019. We take the opportunity to thank him for his dedication and service over the past two decades and wish him the very best in his future career’.

“Today the Diocese will start to address these new circumstances created by Mr Baker’s resignation. A further announcement will be made in the coming weeks.”

It is understood that Baker, who has served as Master of Music since 2000, had urged Cardinal Vincent Nichols not to approve changes to the Westminster Cathedral Choir School timetable, which parents argued would put the cathedral’s musical heritage at risk.

The changes saw the school become five-days-a-week boarding rather than seven, with parents having to take children home on Friday evening and return them on Sunday morning before the 10.30am Mass. The boys no longer sing at Mass on Friday or Saturday.

David Heminway, chair of the governors, said in a letter to parents last May that it was “becoming increasingly difficult” to recruit boys and that parents had said they wanted to see their children more.

In an open letter to Cardinal Nichols, however, a group of parents said the move would strike “a critical blow to an important part of our national, international and Catholic heritage and tradition” and would “actively damage the world-class standing of the choir”.

Writing in the Catholic Herald before the changes were implemented, former Master of Music Colin Mawby, who died in November, warned that forcing parents to pick up their children every week would make it impossible for families living outside of London to send their children to the school.

“What is now an international institution will become localised,” he wrote.

“I went to the school as a boy but under the new timetable this would be impossible. The extensive liturgical music I have composed would never have been written.

“I believe there was little consultation with the music department or parents. Martin Baker, the Cathedral’s master of music, has developed the choir’s repertoire, maintained its standards and made many internationally acclaimed CDs. He has dedicated himself to the Cathedral and its liturgy. He did manage to put his case to the cardinal but without effect.”