Christ Church choir: €1.4m annual maintenance bill

IT is one of the most prestigious choirs in Ireland, formed more than 500 years ago and renowned for performing the first ever version of Handel's Messiah.

But this weekend, serious concerns surround the future of Christ Church choir, with funding difficulties threatening to bring an end to centuries of tradition.

Church officials remain tight-lipped on the issue and sources said that the fate of its famous singers would not be clear until early this week.

A spokeswoman explained that because matters were "in a state of flux", the church was unable to comment.

The Sunday Tribune understands that a meeting between choir members and management was held on Friday to discuss the situation after rumours of the choir's disbanding began to spread late last week.

Whatever its outcome, mounting financial troubles at the landmark Dublin cathedral have been no secret and are putting a stranglehold on its future.

The €1.4m annual maintenance bill has traditionally been met by visitors paying to enter the hallowed halls.

However, in an open letter on the church website, the Very Reverend Dermot Dunne, dean of Christ Church, said that income had dropped significantly in recent times.

"Financial predictions for this year indicate that income from visitors will drop by 25%," he wrote.

"The cathedral chapter and board have budgeted expenditure in the light of the fall-off in visitor numbers.

"Many stringent cuts to expenditure have been put in place. Despite these cuts, the cathedral is heading for an end-of-year deficit of €200,000 to maintain even the minimum of its services."

Management restructuring and an upcoming fundraising drive are included in measures designed to "ensure the survival of the cathedral in these harsh economic times".

"The cathedral depends totally on voluntary donations for its survival. It is important that we save Christ Church Cathedral from financial collapse," wrote Reverend Dunne.

Choir services are performed five times a week by both the professional mixed-adult choir and the cathedral girls' choir.

The Cathedral Choir, whose foundation goes back to 1493, is hailed as one of the finest in Ireland and is in constant demand for external performances.

It famously took part in the first performance of Handel's Messiah in 1742.

Over the years, it has successfully toured in countries including England, France, New Zealand, Germany, Croatia and Slovenia.