Last year’s venue for the Glasgow Churches Together Children’s Cantata, Wellington Church, proved so successful that it was the clear choice for this year. The church was filled with around 650 children (from 20 schools*) plus teachers, helpers, instrumentalists*, and guests.
There was a real buzz of excitement as the children, who had rehearsed separately in their own schools, came together for the first time with the music students from the Education Department of the University of Glasgow, violinists from Bannerman High and the other instrumentalists for a brief rehearsal (under conductors Marie Warrington and Moira Summers) before the Cantata began. It always seems a miracle that it all comes together so well but this is clearly down to all the hard work put in in the weeks before by the children and their teachers, and the instrumentalists.
This year’s cantata was “David and His Song” by Br. Stephen Smyth and Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick. The service began with a procession of children from St. Monica’s school dressed in costume for the characters of the Cantata – David, Saul, Jonathan, Samuel, Hannah and Goliath – bringing down to the front of the church a copy of the Bible which was placed on the lectern. As they did so, everyone joined in singing “God our Creator” to the well-loved tune “Highland Cathedral”, an opening hymn guaranteed to get everyone involved and ready to sing.
Two children from St. Ninians then welcomed everyone to the cantata, in English and the Olongo dialect of the Philippines – a recognition of the many different ethnic and national communities now present in our schools, a diversity which could also be seen in the children themselves present in the church.
Before the cantata itself began, there was a reading from the First Book of Samuel, followed by a beautiful rendition of Rutter’s setting of Psalm 22/23 and a reading from Ephesians 3. The children who did the readings could teach our adult readers a thing or two!
The subject of the cantata being King David, the story was interspersed with his psalms, both sung and spoken, including a spoken presentation of psalm 22/23 in Polish, and a lively sung version of psalm 25/26. Other songs, linked by spoken narration, told the story of David. Perhaps one of the most enthusiastically sung was the song of Goliath, which was equally enthusiastically acted by the children of St. Monica’s.
There was also dancing by children from Our Lady of the Rosary Primary who performed an Israeli style dance, and the children of St. Ninian’s who gave a spirited Scottish country dance as they played the part of the people rejoicing over David’s victory.
At the end of the cantata, there were intercessions read for children throughout the world, for the work of hospices and hospitals, for everyone involved in education, for the city council, for artists and musicians, and for peace in the world. The intercessions finished with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, which was also signed by the children of St. Roch’s Primary. Then the children brought down donations from each school towards a bedroom for a sick young person in the new hospice being built at Bellahouston for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, as the B.Ed students sang. Debbie Limond from the Hospice thanked the children for their kindness and thoughtfulness in choosing the Hospice as their charity this year.
Baillie Margot Clark, representing the Lord Provost, spoke briefly to express her appreciation of the work of the children – so much talent and no signs of nerves – and the instrumentalists. She also thanked the teachers for their hard work. Her thanks were echoed by Isobel Taggart from the Education Department who brought greetings from the Director, Maureen McKenna. She told the children that Maureen was in Malawi working with schools there.
The service ended with a blessing from the church representatives present – Archbishop Tartaglia, Fr. David Wallace and Rev. Allan Anderson – and the singing of “O Day of Peace” to the glorious melody “Jerusalem” which filled the church. As the children headed out to find their buses and go back to school, the instrumentalists, conductors and the organising team had the opportunity to wind down over a lovely lunch provided by the Wellington community in the Crypt Café.
For those of us present, this was a wonderful experience, seeing the children putting so much effort into their singing and dancing, with such concentration and discipline, as well as enthusiasm. It was also great to watch the support and commitment they received from their teachers. For the children themselves, the cantata was not a performance by them but something for them, an experience which they will surely remember for a long time.
*Schools: Avenue End Primary, Bankhead Primary, Dalmarnock Primary, Notre Dame Primary, Royston Primary, St. Bartholomew’s Primary, St. Brigid’s Primary, St. Conval’s Primary, St. John Paul II Primary, St. Martha’s Primary, St. Mary’s, Maryhill, St. Monica’s Primary, St. Ninian’s Primary, Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral Primary, Our Lady of the Rosary Primary, Our Lady of the Missions Primary, St. Paul’s Primary, St. Roch’s Primary, St. Saviour’s Primary, St. Vincent’s Primary.
Instrumentalists: Dr. Noel Donnelly, Monica Dyer, Annette McKirdie, Pauline McNichol, Anne Marie Berrie, Maree Murdoch, Billy Dewar-Riddick, Amanda Gemmell, Anna Fraser, Ellen Smyth, Alyson Nelson, Greg McGonigal, Kathryn Alexander, Matt Harvey, Jennifer Lindsay, Tony Sutherland, Emma Irving, Jennifer Valance, Ronan Boyle, Michael Gibson, Alan Fraser.