Argyll & Isles Pastoral Music Weekend was held in its usual venue, St. Mary’s Kinnoull over 7-9 May. This session, we had a record attendance of just under 70 people, many of them “weel kent” faces but also an encouraging number of new people and some returning regulars. The numbers meant in fact that some had to get offsite accommodation as we exceeded the capacity of St. Mary’s, and many of the rehearsals had to be held in the main church.
As ever we began on the Friday evening before dinner with a warm-up session. After dinner, in the first full session there was a mix of music, with some brushing up of repertoire from previous weekends, and a lot of new music too.
The latter included a hymn for the celebration of Mother Mary MacKillop’s canonisation later this year – a setting of her words by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon which had been composed for the inauguration of her shrine in Roybridge in 1997; Fr. Gerry Fitzpatrick’s setting of Psalm 15 and his new Alleluia for the Papal Mass in September, and an exciting challenge – the first sight of the new Lamb of God and Gloria by James McMillan composed for the Papal Mass. The last of these was in quite a different style to what most people were familiar with, and used the new Missal translation. We worked on these over the weekend.
We then celebrated Night Prayer in the Oratory before adjourning to the lounge to catch up on news and to welcome the new members to our weekend.
Saturday started bright and early, and beautiful – why does the sun always shine when you have to be indoors! We began with preparation for morning Mass, going over the McMillan Agnus and the MacKillop hymn, and learning the response for Noel Donnelly’s setting of Psalm 24.
The celebrant for Mass was Fr. Michael Hutson and the preacher was Mgr. James MacNeil. Referring to the Gospel for the day, Mgr. Jamie linked it with the central principle for the celebration of the Eucharist – active participation which was another way of describing the close bond between Christ and his disciples, indeed the identity of Christ with his disciples, including each of us. He has chosen us to be with him. In the liturgy, we are invited to offer ourselves, with all our tensions, with Christ to God in trust and to say “Your will be done”
The morning ended with a session on the psalms. Settings of Psalms 15, 18 and 103 were learned and Fr. Roddy Johnstone gave a reflection on each of these, touching on their history and meaning, as an aid to more prayerful singing.
The usual retail therapy break in the afternoon was followed by separate rehearsals to learn or refresh choral parts as well as work on the new music in smaller groups. To the music already learned, we added the Mozart Ave Verum, Michael Joncas’ setting of “Take and Eat”, James Quinn’s setting of the St. Ninian hymn “Ninian of Galloway” and the McMillan Gloria for the Papal Mass.
When the participants joined up again, Mgr. MacNeil gave a short reflection on the theme of active participation which he had referred to at Mass. This should not be something purely external but should mean identity with Christ. He reminded us of the words of Mary MacKillop in the hymn – “let your will be mine”. God has a plan for each of us. We don’t know what that plan is but God’s will is always good and he brings good even out of sin. We should accept what is in our lives as it is, as God’s plan taking shape. The results of this acceptance will be peace, respect for God’s plan in the other person, and active participation in the Eucharist at one with Christ.
After Evening Prayer and dinner, everyone came together to rehearse the
music learned at the separate sessions and prepare for Mass the following day. It was impressive to hear how well the new material had been learned in such a short time. Then it was time to head for the lounge for some well earned refreshments and nibbles, and a bit of a ceilidh. We also helped one member celebrate a memorable birthday!
The parish community welcomed us warmly as ever at Mass the next morning. The music of the Mass was an inspirational mix of new and familiar, starting with the well known hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and followed by what may have been the premiere of the McMillan Gloria. The psalm was Mgr. Frank Duffy’s setting of Psalm 18. Fr. Roddy gave the sermon and invited us to reflect on the power of the word – as seen for example in the different greetings which are used in different cultures – and the power of music joined to the power of the word.
During the preparation of the gifts, we had a beautiful instrumental on guitar by Peter Chute and his young daughter, Sally on baritone. The Sanctus and acclamation were from a setting by Liam Lawton and the new McMillan setting of the Agnus Dei. During Communion, we sang “Take and Eat” and gave the men the opportunity of going solo on the verses. The Mass finished with the Ninian hymn. Then it was a quick cuppa and scones/biscuits before we took leave of each other until the next time!