It wasn’t quite what the St Mungo Singers had envisaged for their celebration of 50 years’ service to the Church. Pre-Covid, plans had vaguely included a pilgrimage – perhaps to Rome – a party to which families, friends and colleagues would be invited; a civic reception perhaps and (in Mgr. Gerry’s words) a “big mega-Mass”. Covid and the resultant travel restrictions put all thoughts of a pilgrimage on hold and, while there will be a civic reception to acknowledge the choir’s contribution to the life of the city, this too is on hold until in-person events can be celebrated. However the Mass did go ahead on 12 September albeit a little lower key than anticipated due to continuing restrictions, and with the singers duly masked in black.
Mgr. Gerry and members of the choir were joined by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and some of the many priests who have been involved with them in their ministry of service, as well as colleagues from the liturgical music scene in Glasgow, and representatives of the Knights of St Columba. The Mass was also livestreamed on Being Catholic.
The music of the Mass had as its core settings from Scottish liturgical composers whose music the choir had done so much to promote for use in church and who in turn have provided much material for their use, but also included a plainchant Kyrie, a piece set to a melody of Orlando Gibbons and a modern setting of the prayer of St Richard of Chichester.
Deceased members of the choir were remembered in the Intercessions. Sadly some had died during the Covid lockdown and the choir had been unable to be present at their funerals. It is intended that a requiem Mass will celebrated for them later.
Archbishop Conti, in his address to those present, expressed his delight in being able on behalf of the Archdiocese to thank Mgr. Gerry and his colleagues who had formed the choir in the time of Archbishop Scanlan – Archbishop Scanlan had christened it the St Mungo Singers. The Archbishop noted that there had been a great need for a choir like the St Mungo Singers at that time to promote and support the liturgical reforms of Vatican II and its desire for the encouragement of congregations to take active part in the liturgy through the singing of the psalms and the parts of the Mass.
It had supported the liturgical needs of the Archdiocese in since its foundation and it had also become a tremendous support for ecumenism, with any liturgical gathering being incomplete, he said, without its presence.
Archbishop Conti caused some laughter when he said that if he were to sum up the character of the choir it would in the Italian musical terms con brio, reflecting their spirit, fire and vivacity, and piano, their ability to encourage the people of God to participate, enabling them in the words of the document Sacrosanctum Concilium “in the earthly liturgy to …. take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem”
In his reflection, Mgr Gerry remembered how the choir had started as an ad hoc group of singers for a music conference in 1969 then two years later was launched as a formal liturgical choir with the Philip Green Mass of St Patrick with the late Canon Sydney McEwan. Within its first five years the choir had been involved in seventy parishes within the Archdiocese.
Fifty years later, it is still doing what it was founded to do:- liturgies, music conferences, recordings, support for parishes with cantors and choirs. There had also been so many big events that the St Mungo Singers had been involved in, such as the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, the 1997 Year of the Celtic Saints and the two papal visits to Glasgow, to name but a few. Mgr. Gerry suggested that perhaps the choir had lasted so long because its members had enjoyed themselves too, with pilgrimages, celebrations and social gatherings.
The St Mungo Singers, he said, had come into being at a time of great cultural upheaval, and the Archdiocese had perhaps not been sure about it, but its founding principle had always been to lead people in prayer and liturgy. So many people had been involved in and with them over the fifty years, for which he was grateful. Finally he thanked the choir, to much amusement, for putting up with him for all those years.
Ad multos annos!