The Music Weekends just get better, according to some of those taking part! Over 40 musicians from throughout the Diocese (together with some associates from beyond the Diocese!) gathered over the weekend of 1-3 May at St. Mary’s Kinnoull to make music, reflect on their music ministry and catch up on news with friends old and new. There was real pleasure, too, in welcoming Bishop Joseph Toal to his first music weekend, together with Fr. Roddy Johnston and diocesan deacon Martin Mattheson.
In the first session of the weekend, Bishop Toal reflected on the role of the Bishop as outlined in the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry for Bishops. He found this document thought-provoking. It emphasises that the first role of the Bishop is his responsibility for divine worship where, as head of the praying community, he should bring a sense of unity and community. The second aspect highlighted is the Bishop’s responsibility for the liturgy in his diocese, ensuring the full participation of the faithful. Sacred music has an important part to play but it needs to be linked to the liturgy; it should not be an “add-on”. The importance of participation in the Sunday liturgy for the preservation and nourishment of faith is stressed, and the communal, public nature of all liturgy.
The participants then revised the music to be used for Evening Prayer that evening, including Bernadette Farrell’s setting of Psalm 139 and Liam Lawton’s “Hiding Place”, as well as starting on some new music: the Elgar “Ave Verum”, John Bell’s “When we are living (Somos del Senor)” and Gerry Fitzpatrick’s new Castlebay Sanctus and setting of Psalm 88.
At Evening Prayer, Mgr. James MacNeil in his reflection quoted Pope Benedict’s recent comment that “music becomes prayer and the abandonment of the heart to God” and urged that we recognise the anxiety that arises from living a pretence and the freedom which comes from letting go and giving ourselves to God. As the Easter readings remind us, the touches of Jesus are usually a surprise but his message is “Peace be with you”.
On Saturday morning, Bishop Toal celebrated Mass for all present, before rehearsals began again and David Haas’ Gloria from the Mass of Light – an exhilarating piece – was added to repertoire, and memories were refreshed in respect of other pieces including Liam Lawton’s “Sail the Soul”. After lunch, retail therapy was in order, with singing lessons available for those who wished.
On Saturday evening, Mgr. MacNeil returned to his theme in his talk when he pointed out that God is saying to us “I am not who you think I am – I want you to be free”. We need to let go of the desire to try to fit things into our image of life, to keep control. Anxiety is a waste of time – stop worrying about what is past or what is to come. For God, there is only “now” and our liturgy is full of references to God’s “now”, particularly in the Eucharist. Indeed the Liturgy is the moment when time touches the eternal “now” and we need to take this into our daily lives. This is not running away. We recognise that life is messy and risky but we must live fully in the present, the “now”.
After Evening Prayer, which included Noel Donnelly’s St. Peregrine Hymn, Gerry Fitzpatrick’s setting of Psalm 88 (used at the Chrism Mass) and John Bell’s setting of Psalm 62, the group were given the opportunity to see the new St. Mungo Music website (www.stmungomusic.org.uk) and experience the features now available for musicians. There was also the opportunity to hear about the arrangements for the Diocesan Choir Pilgrimage to Salamanca in September 2009.
The Weekend finished with the Parish Mass at St. Mary’s, when the musicians were given a warm welcome by parishioners and led the music of the Mass, putting into practice what they had learned over the weekend. An additional piece was a Gaelic translation of “Now the Green Blade Riseth”.