Virtual evensong to raise money for cathedral choirs feeling the strain from coronavirus

TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and news reader Katie Derham are lending their support to a virtual evensong to raise money for cathedral choirs struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual evensong has been made possible by 21 choral scholars from Church of England cathedrals across the south-west of England. 

Armstrong and Derham will be reading the lessons during the broadcast, taking place on the Friends of Cathedral Music YouTube channel on 28 July at 6:30pm. 

Choirs have been unable to perform in person since the start of lockdown and even now, as places of worship have re-opened, restrictions remain in place on singing. 

Latest guidelines do not permit group singing indoors when worshippers are present.  Indoor performances to a live audience are expected to resume only after 1 August and "subject to the successful completion of pilots, and provided [coronavirus] prevalence remains around or below current levels".

The funds raised by the performance will go towards the Cathedral Choirs' Emergency Fund and projects to increase the visibility of the English choral tradition. 

The emergency fund was launched with the goal of raising £1m to support cathedral choral foundations after a survey showed that many will struggle without additional funds once lockdown restrictions are lifted.  £850,000 has been raised so far. 

Daniel Maw, 23, a third-year choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral and one of six scholars taking part from Exeter, said: "The English choral tradition is unique and really important to us all – it has certainly taken over my life.

"We wanted to come together and use our connected network to show, as young adult musicians, our real passion for this musical tradition and being in lockdown created the perfect storm for us to do just that.

"I can't think of my life without it." 

Esmee Loughlin-Dickenson, a 20-year-old alto choral scholar at Truro Cathedral, said it was "very special" to be taking part in the project. 

"I hadn't done many virtual choir projects and I really wanted to do something very personal that I would be able to look back on and be very proud of," she said. 

"We're all involved in it, it's giving us a lot to do and it is definitely giving us a sense of purpose while we wait to hear when we can come back together again physically." 

The Dean of Truro, the Very Rev Roger Bush, will lead the prayers for the broadcast.

He said: "This is all about the young people; they are doing all the organisation, all of the music-making, and all of the editing – and they're doing it solely because of their love for choral music and the choral tradition."