The St. Mungo Singers 40th Anniversary celebrations to date have reflected the various aspects of the choir’s life and activities, starting with the Anniversary Dinner in June, followed by its pilgrimage to Rome and Orvieto in October, and on 4th November the Thanksgiving Mass which celebrated the core of its life – the liturgy.
The Mass was presided over by Archbishop Conti, accompanied by priests from the Archdiocese and elsewhere who have been involved with the St. Mungo Singers over the years. Choir members, present and past, were also joined by relatives, friends and some of the instrumentalists who have worked with them, as well as members of the Sacred Threads embroiderers who celebrate their 29th anniversary this year. Representatives of the City Council and of Glasgow Churches Together were also present.
The music of the celebration reflected both the range and the history of the choir’s repertoire. Before the Mass began, the instrumentalists played and the choir sang Catherine Walker’s “Great God, Be Near Me” and Bob Chilcott’s “Irish Blessing”. As the Archbishop and priests entered, the singers then led the congregation in singing the Harris/Smyth arrangement of the St. Patrick’s Breastplate.
After Archbishop Conti’s welcome, the Penitential Rite followed with the plainsong Kyrie,. The Gloria was Mgr. Fitzpatrick’s new St. Andrew setting of the Gloria to the new Missal text. The Psalm was Martin Morran’s setting of Ps117 (which was published in Psalms for Parishes in 1975), while the Gospel Verse was that used at the Papal Mass in Bellahouston in 2010. The Gospel itself was sung by Deacon Kevin Kelly who proclaimed it beautifully.
The intercessions included prayers for present choir members and others involved in the music ministry of the church, the Archbishops and clergy who had supported and encouraged the choir in its service, and the Sacred Threads who enriched the liturgy with their art. Before the prayers, the choir sang the Taizé “O Lord, Hear my Prayer”, and at the conclusion, Noel Donnelly’s “May the Souls of the Faithful Departed” was sung for all the choir’s deceased members, families and friends.
For the preparation of the gifts, the motet was the Tallis “If Ye Love Me”. As befitted the occasion, the Preface Dialogue and Preface were sung, leading into the new St. Andrew setting of the Sanctus. The Agnus Dei was Noel Donnelly new Dalreoch setting. For the Communion, the music included Dr. Donnelly’s “One Body, One Faith” Palestrina’s “Jesu, Rex Admirabilis” and, for the thanksgiving Dr. Donnelly’s setting of the Newman prayer “May the Lord Protect Us”. Before the Blessing, John Bell’s “God to enfold you” was sung by the choir, and the Recessional hymn was Stephen Smyth Canticle from Colossians.
Archbishop Conti said in his homily that it probably felt unbelievable for members that it was four decades since the choir had been formed to promote and support liturgical music in the Archdiocese. The choir had been given its name by Archbishop Scanlan. It had been used by Cardinal Winning for the major services in the Archdiocese, and Archbishop Conti himself had appreciated them since his first service in the Archdiocese in February 2002. Their commitment, dedication and reliability had never failed and they had sung for two Popes, 3 Archbishops of Glasgow and numerous Provost, clergy and congregations.
Music, the Archbishop said, is one of God’s most precious gifts. As St. Augustine said, referring to the love of God, “Song belongs to one who loves”. The presence of the choir was a great blessing and no church service was complete without them. He suggested that if life begins at forty, the choir had a great deal still ahead of it, and he invited the singers to flourish by the praising of God’s name and the preaching of his word.
At the end of the Mass, Fr. Noel Colford, who described himself as the choir’s oldest fan, thanked Archbishop Conti and Mgr. McElroy and all who had participated in the Mass on behalf of the choir. Describing the St. Mungo Singers as a great family, he said that music was immensely important and precious in making the Mass a beautiful and joyful celebration and thanked the choir for promoting the liturgical life of the Archdiocese.
After the Mass, the Archdiocese rounded off the celebrations with a lovely finger buffet in the Eyre Hall which gave the opportunity for everyone to exchange reminiscences of the events of the last forty years!