ONE of Wrexham’s biggest churches will be without a choir at Christmas after a bitter employment dispute.
An unholy row over the departure of church choir director Jacqui Blore erupted at St Giles’ Church in the town centre after she was made redundant in August following a period off work with depression and stress.
She is now taking her former employers, Wrexham Parochial Church Council (WPCC), to an employment tribunal citing unfair dismissal.
Several devoted choir members – angered by their musical leader’s exile – have quit and the choir has been suspended.
Now the church, whose records show a choral tradition dating back to the 18th century, will be without a choir for its Christmas services.
There has always been singing in the church and the earliest record of an official choirmaster dates from 1724 when Charles Manchester is named as ‘singing master’.
The church’s assistant curate confirmed there will be no ‘formal robed choir’ at the church this Christmas, but she said the musical tradition at the place of worship will ‘continue to thrive’.
But speaking to the Leader, Miss Blore said she was saddened by the situation.
She said: “There will be no choral Midnight Eucharist, and no Christmas hyms or anthems sang by the choir, which is so very sad.
“There has never been a break in the choir that I am aware of and this is the first time, certainly in living memory, there will be no choir in the church.
“It will also be the first time I have not attended St Giles’ Church in 46 years at Christmas.”
Recently the choir has comprised of eight trebles, four adult sopranos, four altos, one tenor and one bass. It sang every Sunday for the 11am service and for two or three Evensong services a month, as well as for many extra services.
The choir has also featured in recordings for BBC radio.
Matthew Ellis, who used to sing in the choir, and has worked with Miss Blore for many years said: “I have been in church choirs since I was eight years old and it is an extremely important role in worship.
“The role of director is a vital one, especially at St Giles’ which has a rich choral tradition.
“For it to be withdrawn is scandalous.
“A few people who have great respect for Jacqui have now left the choir.”
Mr Ellis, 41, also started up the Cambrian Orchestra with Miss Blore, who used to play concerts for and in the church. But he said this affiliation has now ended.
Miss Blore, 46, whose duties also included being secretary to the rector and parish administrator, was made choirmaster in 1996 after a long established musical career. A year later she was promoted to director of music.
She was signed off with work related depression in April. But in August Miss Blore was made redundant.
She has taken her dismissal to the courts over the way she was made redundant and the justifications given by PCC.
In her claims against the WPCC, Miss Blore states she was not warned or properly consulted about the redundancy and that any redundancy procedures had been abandoned.
She is also disputing the money paid to her as part of the redundancy package.
Miss Blore said: “It has been wonderful to have the support of those in the choir, and that is one of the things that has kept me going through this.
“I did not ever want it to come to this. All I want is my job back as it is a job that I loved doing.”
Tudor Williams Solicitors, who are representing Miss Blore, called her dismissal “grossly unfair”.
An employment tribunal is due to take place early next year.
The Rev Kate Tiltman, assistant curate at St Giles’ Church, said: “While we won’t have a formal robed choir this Christmas, the congregation at St Giles’ have been rehearsing for the festive season and the singing in church is as strong as ever.
“We have even recorded a CD of the congregation performing Christmas music which has sold more than 150 copies to raise money for church funds.
“We have also seen hundreds of schoolchildren and their choirs join us for Christmas with 350 young people packed into the church on Monday.
“In 2014 we have a huge programme of concerts planned – even doing the Mozart Requiem at one point – so the musical tradition at this historic place of worship will continue to thrive. The congregation are really enjoying taking the responsibility for the singing.
“As the matter over the redundancy of a member of staff is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”