Organists spurn top Abbey music job

THE "POISONOUS" atmosphere at Westminster Abbey is making it almost impossible to fill the top job in church music. Many of Britain's most eminent musicians are unwilling to apply for the post of organist - vacant since the sacking last year of Dr Martin Neary, according to insiders.

They claim that the few organists qualified to take up the job do not want to work for the Dean of Westminster, Dr Wesley Carr - the man who dismissed Dr Neary.

A firm of headhunters has been hired, but potential successors are refusing to throw their hats into the ring because of in-fighting and feuding at the Abbey, which has played host to many state events including royal weddings and funerals.

The paucity of candidates has prompted speculation that the post will be offered to Martin Baker, Dr Neary's deputy, who has been in charge of the music at the Abbey since last year.

Mr Baker, although comparatively inexperienced, has been highly praised, but is a Roman Catholic. Until recently, being an Anglican was a requirement for the job. This is no longer the case, but the appointment of a Catholic to the top musical post in the Church of England would inevitably stir up controversy.

"There's nothing more high-profile in the world than the Abbey," a senior member of the Royal College of Organists said. "But the extraordinarily uncomfortable atmosphere is putting a lot of people off."

Trevor Ford, editor of the Church Music Quarterly, said it is crucial that the right person be appointed, but added: "The appalling handling of the Neary case by the Abbey authorities has deterred a number of eminent musicians from applying for the vacant post. Engaging a firm of head-hunters to scour the world for Dr Neary's successor is seen by many as an utterly pointless exercise, as well as a waste of the Abbey's funds."

Dr Neary and his wife, Penny, an Abbey administrator, were sacked in April last year. Although cleared of dishonesty, a church court upheld the decision of the Dean to dismiss them. Respect for Dr Neary, combined with concerns about working with Dr Carr, who has been accused of being ruthless and over-controlling, are said to be at the root of the reluctance of potential candidates to apply.

The conductor Sir David Willcocks, former president of the Royal College of Organists and once an Abbey chorister, said: "If it had been a normal retirement at the age of 65 there would be no shortage of applicants. But I would be surprised if some people weren't cagey. My view is that the way in which things have been handled has made it much more difficult to get a successor."

Sir David was one of the renowned musicians who advised on appointments in the past but decided not to cooperate with the headhunters. It is understood at least one other former adviser followed suit.

A spokesman for the Abbey said they had waited until the Nearys had left their home in the Abbey grounds before starting the search in February.

Executive headhunters Saxton Bampfylde Hever had been brought in to ensure transparency and objectivity in the proceedings.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'