Argyll & Isles Music Weekends are renowned for being a great mix of hard work and enjoyment but this September’s event reached new heights as 46 participants from across the Diocese came together, primarily to prepare for the Papal Mass at Bellahouston, whether as members of the Papal choir or as support for their parishes. There was a special pleasure in welcoming newly ordained deacon Rev. David Connor who joined us from Maynooth College.
Early arrivals got straight to work at 5 pm on Friday until dinner at 7pm. Rehearsals then continued with both separate sessions to refresh/learn parts and combined work to put it all together. For those with any energy left from the singing (as well as the travelling), there was time later to sit and catch up on the news.
The following morning after breakfast, the joint and separate rehearsals continued. The choir was joined for the morning by John Pitcathley from Motherwell Diocese who will be the main organist at the Papal Mass. John was made most welcome on this, his first visit to an Argyll & Isles Music Weekend and, inevitably, put to work accompanying rehearsals. There are no free lunches in Perth!
The Saturday morning session was brought to a close with Mass, which provided an opportunity to sing some of the music we had been rehearsing. We had a further pleasant surprise at the Mass – Bishop Emeritus Murray who was at Kinnoull with a small group for a retreat. His group joined the choir for Mass and Bishop Murray concelebrated.
Another special moment during the Mass for so many was hearing Deacon David preaching the homily. His opening words ensured the attention of all as he quoted his mother’s well used words to him when he had done something wrong “I’ll take my hand off your face if you do that again!”. St. Paul, he said, would have recognised the difficulty we all have in doing what we should and not doing what we shouldn’t – see Romans 7. But as Luke’s Gospel for the day indicated, Jesus came to bring liberation and compassion. He gives us freedom at the small price of letting go of our old habits and ways, and offers us eternal life as a gift.
After lunch, there was a break to allow voices to recover and some retail therapy to work its wonders, before further rehearsals and Evening Prayer. In his reflection for the service, Mgr. Jamie MacNeil invited us to consider our day and what had happened during it that we were grateful for or that we wished had not happened.
After dinner, the final rehearsal of the day pulled together all that we had been working on over the two days. We were also privileged to hear Deacon David rehearse the Gospel that he will be singing at Bellahouston.
No weekend at Kinnoull would be complete without a ceilidh and, notwithstanding the hard work which had gone before, the choir members showed no signs of flagging. In addition to songs and poems, we had an additional treat with fiddle music from Isobel MacKellaig which inspired a bit of dancing, much to the delight of our Polish seminarian visitor, Tomek.
The weekend finished with Mass for the local Parish community on Sunday. Much of the music was again that for the Papal Mass but the Psalm was the psalm for the day, Ps. 89 in Noel Donnelly’s lovely setting.
In his homily, Mgr. Jamie picked up on some of David’s thoughts from the previous day. He suggested that much of our struggle is that we concentrate on the external actions, rather than on the need for internal conversion. The traditional Catechism answer speaks of God wishing us to be happy with Him in the next life but that does not exclude us being happy also in this life. And this happiness comes from carrying out the will of God, as the first reading indicated. God is the God of “now” and as Meister Eckhart proposed, the best way to prayer is to say “let what is be”.
After Mass, fortified by tea/coffee, scones and biscuits, there was time for a brief update on arrangements for the Papal Choir before we all headed for the road home, after a strenuous but very fulfilling weekend.