The annual St. Mungo Festival in Glasgow goes from strength to strength. This year, its theme is “Mungo’s Bairns” and it explores what it means to be a Glaswegian. It began, as in previous years, with a celebration of the Life of St. Kentigern (or Mungo) in word and music in the Mitchell Library. Despite the double challenges of flu (which affected St. Pat’s Primary school children) and snow on the day, a good crowd turned up to join in the event.
The celebration started with St. Pat’s children singing the St. Mungo Rhyme about “the tree that never grew….the fish never swam…the bird that never flew….the bell that never rang” . In her introduction, Baillie Cathy McMaster welcomed everyone and expressed her appreciation that they had braved the weather to come. She explained that in looking at St. Mungo – who and when he was and why he did what he did – it gave us the opportunity to reflect on where we come from, as a basis for looking forward to where we should be going.
The Russian choir, Russkaya Cappella, from the Russian Orthodox community in Glasgow then sang a trio of unaccompanied pieces in four part harmony, the first a liturgical hymn of praise in honour of St. Mungo, followed by two Russian carols in celebration of the Orthodox Christmas which is on 6/7 January.
The second of these, “This Holy Night (Eta Noch’ svyataya)” gave the St. Mungo Singers a chance to try their hand at singing the repeat of the chorus in Russian, as Russkaya had provided them with a phonetical transliteration of the Russian words as well as the music!
At the heart of the service is the reading of an excerpt from the mediaeval “Vita Kentigerni”. This was read in Latin by Fr. George Gillespie, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, with the English translation read by Dr. Laurence Whitley, the Minister of Glasgow Cathedral. In mediaeval times, the whole of the “Vita” would have been read at the Cathedral in presence of the Archbishop and the Canons.
On this occasion, the excerpt was one of the stories from St. Mungo’s childhood in St. Serf’s monastery in Fife when he was charged with lighting the candles for the first morning service. He discovered that all the lights and fires in the monastery had been extinguished by troublemaking fellow-students. At his earnest prayer, a dry tree branch burst into flame and he was able to carry out his duties.
The children of St. Pat’s then treated those present to a song from the “St. Mungo Cantata” , the chorus of which was so appropriate for the festival:
“Give thanks to God for St. Mungo’s life and work. Let Glasgow flourish in his name”
The service ended with the singing of what was described as almost Glasgow’s anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish”, led by the St. Mungo Singers.