The St Mungo Singers 1971 – 2011 (This is an ongoing report)
The St Mungo Singers were founded in 1971 by Frs McGinty, Trainer and Fitzpatrick and Kathleen Donnelly to promote liturgical music in the Archdiocese of Glasgow. We began by supporting Music Conferences – at St Aloysius’, Garnethill, at Cardross College, at Bellarimine School – and were given our name The St Mungo Singers by Archbishop Scanlan.
Fairly soon we realised that there would be many advantages in having a larger liturgical choir and so we decided to gain more support by a performance of The Mass of St Patrick, by Philip Green, with Canon Sydney McEwan singing the Mass in St Mary’s, Calton. It worked really well.
We visited about 70 parishes within 5 years, and our first memorable Archdiocesan event was the welcome for the Papal Legate, Archbishop Bruno Heim, at the request of Archbishop Thomas Winning. The Archbishop suggested that we find or devise an Entry Processional based on the medieval ‘Laudes’ or Litany form , and, given the nature of the occasion, it seemed appropriate to use ‘feed my lambs, feed my sheep’ as the response! Since then we have sung at a great many Archdiocesan events, including funerals for priests, ordinations, consecrations, visits of the Nuncio, parish jubilees, the Wayside Club, Archdiocesan Lourdes Days, RCIA & Pentecost . . . . A high point was the Kelvinhall Ordination Mass with several choirs and St Andrew’s Brass. We also supported the early Children’s Masses on Palm Sundays and Cantatas from 1977 until they were strong enough to sustain themselves,. We were the main participants in events marking the multi-centenaries of St Margaret, St Mungo, St Ninian, St Columba, St Gregory the Great, and Blessed John Duns Scotus and we have enjoyed collaborating with St Aloysius’, Garnethill in the Ogilvie Vespers.
This year’s choir program has included music for the Papal Visit, the Requiem in St Agnes’ (including the plainsong Introit and Communion), and one for ourselves in St Leo’s, St Andrew’s Day, the St Mungo Festival events, Carols for Peace, the Mass of our Celtic Roots, the RCIA service on the 1st Sunday of Lent, the Ogilvie Vespers, the Chrism Mass, the re-opening of St Andrew’s Cathedral, St Andrew and a Catena of Saints, an Ecumenical Vespers in Bishopbriggs, the Champagnat Mass, Glasgow the Welcoming City, a wedding in St Aloysius’, an ordination, an Investiture Mass for The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and a festive Mass to launch the New Missal. One of our ongoing concerns is to support parish choirs in the Archdiocese and this has also engaged the attention of the Music Committee.
Early on we worked with Kerr Spiers and the Paisley Baptists, with Rev Bill Hewitt of Elderslie, and Fr Godfrey Hartley of the Episcopalian Mission to Seamen in Govan, and we shared concerts with the Jewish Choral Society and the Kedron Choir. We played a major part in the Glasgow Garden Festival and the 1990 Year of Culture. Since Glasgow Churches Together began we have given it continual support collaborating with many other choirs, bands and instrumentalists to the present day. Events have included the Agape launching GCT, the Year of the Celtic Saints, the St Mungo Cantata in Glasgow Cathedral, the first Scottish Ecumenical Assembly of the Year 2001. At the initiative of Archbishop Conti and Dr Laurence Whitley we have taken a leading part in the annual St Mungo Service in Glasgow Cathedral
We were invited to participate in The Garden Festival in 1988 and were at the heart of the ’Songs of Praise of the Christians and Jews’ forging many warm friendships. We gave some discrete support to the Children’s Mass at the Garden Festival along with St Andrew’s Brass and the Art Dept of St Roch’s Secondary —this was probably the biggest event of the Festival. With the encouragement of Lord Provost Alex Mossom we initiated the now annual Carols for Peace in the City Chambers, and then at the invitation of Lord Provost Liz Cameron engaged the GCT Music and Worship Committee in organizing Glasgow the Welcoming City. Most recently, with the inspiration of Bailie Catherine McMaster we have participated in the St Mungo Festival in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow Cathedral and, of course, the annual St Mungo Mass which was upgraded by Cardinal Winning in the 1980s.
From the beginning our aim has been to promote that understanding of the role of liturgical choirs indicated by the Vatican Council— to lead and support the congregation and to enrich the occasion by appropriate choral music. Our policy has therefore been to sustain our heritage of liturgical music while promoting contemporary music which facilitates the full active and conscious participation called for. This is no easy task but our repertoire has maintained a core of Plainsong, with music of Palestrina, Tallis, Byrd, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Vaughan-Williams, Elgar, Rutter, and Chilcott. Lots of our liturgical material is local and provides accessible and singable melodies which are sensitive to the meaning of the texts and can be enriched by choral harmony, but we have also introduced many of the great classic ecumenical hymns to the Archdiocese, and encouraged the music of Taize and of Iona.
As the New Missal approaches we are already busy working on new settings by Noel and Gerry.