Every year the challenge for the St. Mungo Singers is fitting the choir’s own Christmas celebration in while meeting its other obligations. This year, they decided to combine work and pleasure, organising a joint Carol Service on 8th December with the parish choir at St. Leo the Great parish, where they are based. This would also be recorded for use on RadioAlba and it would be followed by a Christmas celebration in the parish hall.
The service was a beautiful mix of the old and the new, the traditional (and well-known) and the contemporary (and perhaps less familiar). The choirs were joined by instrumentalists, family and friends, and parishioners. Before the service began, the St. Mungo Singers sang the joyful carol “Resonet in Laudibus”, then candles were lit, as the congregation sang James Quinn’s beautiful “O Light from Light” and the Christmas Introit.
Frank Docherty’s lovely setting of the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel, which followed, reminded us of the eternal truths and the purpose of the Incarnation, and the UN hymn for the World Day of Peace turned our thoughts to the birth of the Prince of Peace and the crying need for peace in our world today. We prayed for Bethlehem (as parishioners of St. Leo’s do every day at Mass as they light the candle in their Dove of Peace) and we sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
The fact and purpose of the Incarnation was celebrated again in the singing, by cantor and choirs, of Ken Jones’ “He became as a man” which is based on St. Paul’s Canticle in the Letter to the Philippians. Then the much loved carols “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” gave everyone an opportunity to get into the spirit of things.
The scripture reading was the Christmas Gospel, sung by cantor with choir and congregation responding at the end with the song of the angels “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to all who enjoy his favour!”. Then the tempo changed with the gentle “Away in a Manger”, another well-loved favourite. This was followed by the choirs singing Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.
Christmas is a time for remembering, and the final part of the service provided the opportunity to pray for the members of the choirs and the parish who had died, for the victims of the recent Clutha Vaults accident in Glasgow and for Nelson Mandela. The prayers finished with the singing of “How Blest are Those who have Died in the Lord” and the saying of the Lord’s Prayer.
Another Bach favourite “Sheep may Safely Graze” seemed appropriate before the blessing sung by Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, and the service ended with the joyful sound of “O Come all Ye Faithful”.
The St. Mungo Singers certainly celebrate the joy of the Gospel in what they do, as Pope Francis exhorts us to, and after this lovely service, they retired to the church hall to continue their celebrations with food and fellowship.