The decision has been met with widespread opposition since it was announcedLouis Ashworth for Varsity / National Assembly for Wales via Wikimedia Commons

An open letter calling for the reversal of the decision to axe the St John’s Voices choir has been signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury and ex-Magdalene College master Rowan Williams.

The open letter condemns St John’s decision to stop funding the mixed-gender choir as “fundamentally regressive”.

As well as the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the letter counts broadcaster Gareth Malone, actor Alexander Armstrong, and Pembroke director of music Anna Lapwood among its signatories.

“The most troubling aspect of this decision is the destruction of choral opportunities for female and non-binary singers at St John’s,” the letter says.

The decision will cut the number of women who sing in the college chapel from 15 to one.

Following the admission of women to the main college choir in 2022, it only counts one female singer among its members.

A petition to revoke the decision to stop funding St John’s Voices has attracted nearly 4,000 signatories.

In response to mounting backlash, St John’s has published a statement doubling down on the decision.

The statement regrets “the upset to the St John’s Voices community” but defends the move as an attempt to “pursue a broader approach to music at the College”.

The proposals include support for non-classical genres of music, such as jazz and pop, and “innovative inter-disciplinary projects”.

The statement explains that St John’s Voices was “originally intended primarily to be for members of the College, but more recently it has expanded, and more members are now from the wider University.”

“The College intends to redirect the resources used for this second Chapel choir towards wider opportunities in music for more members of St John’s,” according to the statement.

The College says it looked into the possibility of creating a successor to St John’s Voices at the University, which could have enabled the choir’s director and singers to continue making music together, separately from the College.


Mountain View

John’s axes mixed gender choir

However, St John’s, whose endowment exceeds £660 million, said: “The greatest hurdle to this plan is financial; the Centre for Music Performance would require an endowment of at least £500,000 to make this a sustainable direction.”

As a result of the decision, choirmaster Graham Walker will be made redundant and over 30 singers will be left without a choir.

Walker had known about the decision for some time, but confidentiality agreements had restricted him from warning members or garnering public support to overturn the decision.

His redundancy has been described as “devastating” by members of the choir and college community.