The Mitchell Library service was attended by representatives of the City Council and GCT, and featured input from the Children’s Singing Studio of the Glasgow Russian Orthodox School, the St. Mungo Singers and clarsach player, Grace Guse. Dr. Irene O’Brien (Glasgow City Archivist) welcomed everyone to the service. The welcome was followed by a gentle harp air, before Archbishop Tartaglia and the St. Mungo Singers chanted the opening of the Latin plainsong Vespers of St. Mungo.
Mrs Catherine McMaster, former Bailie of Glasgow City Council who had been instrumental in getting the Festival off the ground, explained in her introduction that the opening sequence gave us a flavour of what things would have been like in Glasgow Cathedral in mediaeval times on the Feast of St. Mungo. Turning to the Vita Kentigerna, she explained that Bishop Jocelyn of Glasgow had commissioned the writing of the book from Jocelyn, a monk of Jarrow in 1178, because he believed that Glasgow would be a great city and, to publicise it, commissioned a biography of its founder – a pretty modern idea.
In this year of 2014, Glasgow is inviting the whole world to visit it for the Commonwealth Games, and in a similar way we need to think what we are going to tell them about our city. The Vita is the oldest book remaining in Glasgow. It draws on folk tales and older books for its history of the founding of the city. Copies are available in Glasgow Cathedral and the Mitchell Library.
The children of the Russian Orthodox School, conducted by Svetlana Zverevska, now gave us quite a different slant to the celebration of Mungo, with two chants in his honour. These were followed by a lovely, lively carol, reflecting the fact that the Orthodox Church’s celebration of Christmas had just taken place the preceding Tuesday.
Readings from the Vita Kentigernae followed in the original Latin (read by Archbishop Tartaglia) and English translation (by Dr. Laurence Whitley, minister of Glasgow Cathedral). This year the selections covered the story behind the tree in the legend of St. Mungo which appears in the City Coat of Arms.
The service finished with an expression of thanks by Bailie Doherty to all who had taken part or who had helped to plan or support the service, before the St. Mungo Signers led everyone in the singing of the Glasgow Anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish”. In typical Glasgow fashion, there was a cup of tea afterwards for everyone involved.