St Paul’s choir, Shettleston, has been singing in the Glasgow Eastend parish since the 19th century and seems to have done so without the interruptions that have affected so many other similar groups. This year’s ‘Evening of Sacred Music’ on 22 February attracted singers from other archdiocesan choirs including St Joseph’s, Tollcross, St Mary’s, Calton, St Andrew’s Cathedral and the St Mungo Singers, as well as some loyal supporters from the parish.
The service in the stunningly impressive church, was led by the Deacon, the Rev Eddie McDonald, and Fr Carlo Centra, former and much loved parish priest was present. Fr John Campbell, the current Parish Priest, was away on retreat.
The service was carefully balanced musically with some choir music, a solo, some congregational participation, and two hymns from the instrumental group which normally supports the parish evening Mass. Betty McCaffrey, former choirmistress and organist for many years was to have played the organ but was unable to be present, but was represented by her husband John, while her organ playing role was filled for the evening by Jane McKenna and Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick.
The opening hymn was the popular ‘Be thou my vision,’ translated by James Quinn SJ from an 8th century Irish manuscript, and arranged for descant and optional SATB choir harmony. This was followed by the Deacon’s welcome, prayer, a reading from the Gospel, and a homily which addressed the contribution made by singers to the life and liturgy of the church but which put it in the context of the life of St Mary McKillop who could not see a need without trying to do whatever was possibly to meet it.
The homily concluded with us all singing (in two parts) the new hymn based on St Mary’s spirituality (Lord, I give my life to you), which was used at the Pope’s Mass in Bellahouston last year. The hymn was written by Peter Rose and Ann Conlon of Roybridge in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.
The choir then enjoyed singing two motets from the Papal Mass repertoire – Locus Iste (This place, made by God..) conducted by Robbie from St Andrew’s Cathedral, and Ecce Panis Angelorum (Behold the Bread of Angels) conducted by Sister Margaret Rose. These two pieces are in quite contrasting styles and their suggested inclusion in the music for the Papal Mass has enriched the repertoire of lots of choirs.
The next piece was ‘You alone are holy’ – music from an Argentinian song arranged by John Bell and with verses from Psalm 70 chosen and arranged by Gerry Fitzpatrick, a very simple but evocative piece in 4 parts for the chorus and 2 parts for the verses. The text of the refrain, taken from the Gloria used at Mass, acknowledges the holiness of God seen in Jesus.
People enjoyed singing the old favourite, The Lord’s My Shepherd, with descant and four part harmony supplied by the choirs, before St Paul’s choir sang the Iona Community setting of ‘Dona Nobis’ which began in unison and gradually built up into 4 parts.
Noel Donnelly’s verses with ‘O Sacrament Most Holy’ gave the congregation another opportunity to enjoy an old favourite with just a little harmony in the last two bars of the refrain.
The parish instrumentalists changed the musical style as they gave us upbeat renderings of the ‘Song of the Risen Christ’ and ‘Be with me, Lord,’ and then joined in with us all in ‘Blest be the Lord.’
Warm hospitality waited the singers and the congregation in the parish hall afterwards and everyone enjoyed a very pleasant evening. Congratulations all round.