The renovated St. Andrew’s Cathedral is full of light and colour and, on Sunday 8 May, it was also full of sound- the sound of singers (adult and children), musicians and dancers. The occasion was, as part of the series of musical celebrations to mark the re-opening of the Cathedral, a service to honour St. Andrew and the other saints who are represented in the Cathedral.
The singers included choir members from the St. Mungo Singers; the Cathedral Choir; St. Paul’s Shettleston; St. Stephen’s, Dalmuir; Our Lady of Lourdes; St. Joseph’s, Tollcross; Christ the King; St. Barnabas; St. Maria Goretti; plus children from St. Eunan’s Primary, Clydebank and St. Rose of Lima Primary. The musicians included Croy Silver Band, Carissa Bovill on clarsach, and an instrumental ensemble (Marie Claire Rankin, Annette McKirdy, Monica Dyer, Pauline McNichol, Anne Marie Berrie, Mary Lou Graham).
Carissa played some gentle harp music as the congregation settled for the service to start. Then the combined choirs sang Bruckner’s “Locus Iste” before Mgr. McElroy welcomed Archbishop Conti, the musicians, singers and congregation to the celebration.
The title of the service was “St. Andrew and a Catena of Saints” and Mgr. McElroy commented that while “catena” meant “chain”, we should not think of the links of the chain in this case being all the same. Here the links were quite individual.
As was fitting, the first section of the celebration honoured St. Andrew, the patron of Scotland and of the Cathedral. Mgr. McElroy drew attention to the new painting of the patron saint in the porch of the Cathedral. Choirs and congregation then sang the well-loved hymn “When Christ our Lord to Andrew cried”, before joining in prayer for our country. The children of St. Rose of Lima completed this tribute to St. Andrew with a presentation of the short “St. Andrew Cantata” which told the story of the saint.
The sung Litany of Saints which followed invited the congregation to recall in prayer the saints who have gone before in the Faith, many of whom are commemorated in the Cathedral and who have particular links to Scotland.
The next saint in our chain was Ninian of Galloway. Three lovely young Irish dancers from the Stewart School of Dance danced for us and reminded us that dance was a part of early Celtic liturgy. The congregation responded with the singing of the Mchardy/Duffy hymn in honour of St. Ninian “Ninian of Galloway” which many would remember from the Papal Mass in September.
The third saint to be honoured was St. Patrick. As Mgr. McElroy pointed out, the Cathedral had been a magnet for Irish immigrants from its beginning and, appropriately, St. Patrick is depicted in the stained glass of the Cathedral and in its sculpture. Two hymns, based on texts attributed to St. Patrick – Christ be Near at Either Hand (with verses in Gaelic and in English) and the St. Patrick’s Breastplate, and an excerpt from Patrick’s letter to Coroticus, followed, reminders of the wealth of material associated with this saint.
Another Celtic saint followed, St. Columba. While Patrick was a Scot who evangelised the Irish, Columba reversed the situation, being an Irishman who moved to Iona to bring Christianity to much of Scotland. Columba, like Patrick, has some beautiful poetry linked to his name, including the prayer “My Dearest Lord” sung on this occasion by soloist Margaret Mary Galbraith of the Cathedral Choir, and the “Hymn of Columba” sung by the combined choirs, and words attributed to him have been recorded in Adamnan’s Life of Columba, an extract from which was read between the hymns.
A near contemporary of Columba was St. Mungo, the patron saint and founder of Glasgow. A new painting of St. Mungo hangs in the Cathedral porch, opposite that of St. Andrew. A prayer from the Sprouston Breviary for his feastday was read in Latin and English, followed by the singing of the hymn in his honour written by David McRoberts and the late Fr. Des Gunning: “Let Glasgow’s People sing”.
To move us forward to the time of St. Adamnan, a relative and successor of St. Columba, the Chilcott setting of “Be Thou my Vision” – a hymn which was part of the Cetlic sung prayer repertoire within a century of St. Mugno’s death – was sung by a soloist from Lourdes choir, Rebecca McLean.
Adamnan (or Eunan) was an important influence in the Celtic church and Celtic society in his own right, and his story, with due attention being noted regarding his influence in the promulgation of ‘the Law of the Innocents,’ was sung with pride and enthusiasm by the children from St. Eunan’s Primary School in their school song.
The final two saints celebrated in the service were St. Margaret of Scotland and St. John Ogilvie, two people whose lives were so different. Margaret was a refugee princess from England who married the Scottish king and had a great influence on the life of both church and society of her time; and in her honour, the choirs led the singing of “St. Margaret, the winds of yore”.
St. John Ogilvie, the 17th Century Jesuit martyr, on the other hand, was a Scottish convert who was not granted long to carry out his secret ministry to his people in Scotland, but, like Margaret, his influence and memory are still alive. The stirring Vaughan Williams arrangement of “All people that on earth do dwell” was now sung, and the Croy Silver Band truly raised voices (and almost the roof). This was followed by the much loved hymn in honour of St. John “On the Battlefields of Scotland”.
The final section of the service was dedicated to Our Lady. In contrast to the resounding Vaughan Williams, all joined in singing the quietly reflective plainsong Salve Regina. The choirs then sang the lovely Palestrina motet “Alma Redemptoris Mater” before leading the congregation into “Hail Mary, Most Blessed”. The final piece was the choral motet “Regina Coeli” by Webber.
The service was concluded with Intercessions and the praying of the Our Father. Archbishop Conti thanked everyone for their contribution to a lovely afternoon, filled with light, song, dance and music. The Cathedral had seen many changes in its almost two hundred years of existence, he said, but it remained a symbol of the faith of the Catholic community which had been celebrated in this service.
The final hymn was the Anne Carter setting of the Magnificat to the tune of “Amazing Grace”, sung with great joy by all present.