It’s not part of the official Celtic Connections Festival programme but the Mass of our Celtic Roots at St. Aloysius, Garnethill, has become a fixture for many attending the Festival. It is always a feast of liturgical music for the congregation to enjoy and participate in.
This year the music was led by the St. Mungo Singers and members of the choir of St. Mungo’s Alloa who make this visit part of their annual programme. They were joined by a group of instrumentalists, including Claire O’Neill (violin), Carissa Swan (clarsach), John Allan (whistles), Annette McKirdie and Monica Dyer (clarinets), Anne Marie Berrie (guitar) and Jacqueline Barrett (organ). At the front door, to greet the congregation was piper Chris Edwardson.
The principal celebrant this year was Fr. Michael Hutson from St. Andrew’s Rothesay in the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles, and the homilist was Fr. Michael Savage of St. Margaret Mary’s Glasgow. They were joined by Fr. Tim Curtess of the Jesuit community at St. Aloysius who, in his welcome to the congregation, explained his Celtic credentials as being 2 Irish and one Welsh grandparent, which he hoped would suffice. All three celebrants wore the beautiful vestments created by the Sacred Threads liturgical embroidery group.
The combined choirs treated the congregation, before the Mass began, to the lively joy of Botor’s Misericordias Domini, and two hymns in the Celtic idiom – Noel Donnelly’s Celtic Invocation and a setting of the St. Patrick’s Breastplate by Stephen Smyth and David Harris. The Mass itself began with the Prayer of St. Columba, led by the choirs.
The readings of the Liturgy of the Word were in Scots Gaelic, Irish and English, reflecting the mixed heritage of so many in Glasgow. The Psalm was a lovely Celtic inspired setting of Psalm 120 by Catherine Walker. The Intercessions were also in Gaelic, Irish and English.
Fr. Hutson as principal celebrant gave a great example of how the priest can add to the music of the liturgy, singing the Collect, Creed, the Preface Dialogue and the Eucharistic Prayer (in a new setting by Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick) and encouraging the congregation’s responses.
The music of the Mass ranged from well-known hymns such as Soul of My Saviour, through classical choral pieces (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring), to modern liturgical music (I am the Vine by Sean Bowman and Geoffrey Nobes, and God We Praise You by Christopher Idle). It was a great illustration of the range of our musical treasury and its power to support and encourage prayer.
This thought was echoed in Fr. Savage’s homily. He began by reflecting that while the Mass might not be in the official programme, St. Aloysius was known as a place of quiet focus and welcome for visitors to the Festival, and so plays its part.
The Mass of our Celtic Roots seeks to highlight the music of the liturgy which opens us up to God. The musicians in the Mass, said Fr. Savage, give of their best, not in a performance or gig, but coming from their hearts and their faith, and the Mass provides an opportunity for performers and visitors alike to experience this. One member of the congregation had said to him before the Mass started, that he and his family come each year because they find the Mass somehow uplifting.
Celtic music, old and new, resonates with us because it is part of our history. Our liturgy is adaptable and can take place in small churches and great basilicas and accommodate many cultures, to enable praise to be given to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Mass is an illustration.
At the end of the Mass, Bailie Margot Clark brought greetings from the City Council to all taking part. Then there was time for meeting up with friends old and new in the Ogilvie Centre over tea and cake before heading off.