The St. Mungo Singers have a reputation for working hard but balancing this with time out together. Every second year they have a week-long pilgrimage – in the past this has included Rome, the Holy Land, Malta and Salamanca – and in between they keep their hand in with a weekend away.
This year, a 50 strong party of singers, family members and friends headed for York for the Glasgow September holiday. They arrived in York on the Friday evening in time to settle in, have dinner and check out the area. On the following day, the weather was gloriously sunny and warm, and many of the party elected for a day trip to Harrogate and Knaresborough, while the rest stayed to explore York and in some cases, it is rumoured, go to the “footie”.
On the Sunday morning, the singers visited a quite different chapel at the Bar Convent just outside the walls of York, where the Congregation of Jesus (founded by Mother Mary Ward) have been in residence since 1686. Sr. Mary of the Congregation welcomed the visitors and gave them an introduction to the history of the Convent and its buildings before joining them in celebrating sung Morning Prayer in the beautiful surroundings of the Chapel which is so well hidden from the outside – a necessary attribute in its earlier days. The sisters are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Mother Mary Ward’s founding of the Congregation this year, yet another coincidental celebration for the St. Mungo Singers to enjoy.
The rest of Sunday was leisure time, and choir members could be seen in the Shambles shops, the museums, the restaurants and, later, in the Minster for Vespers in the Anglican tradition. The style was quite a contrast with the one with which the choir were familiar – beautiful music, both choral and instrumental, but a great deal of formal processing and limited room for participation by the congregation. There was also some amusement when it was noted that the Minster staff were not as adept as most Glasgow passkeepers at getting the collection baskets round the congregation before the end of the service.
Monday came round too quickly for most and it was time to leave and return to Glasgow. However, the travellers cheered up when they realised that there would be a stop at the Gretna shopping outlets to make good any oversights in their purchases. Refreshed after a great weekend away, the choir are now ready for what promises to be a very busy season.