Sunday, 28 September 2008


Our services are being sought not by one, or even two, but 3 potential Cathedral Masses!

One of these is Lancaster where there is a regular monthly Mass in the EF. The other two, I'll have to keep quiet about for now, as I've been asked to be discreet regarding both potential venues, so am hardly likely to be proclaiming the news here - yet.....

Depending on who is available, and dates, which are crucial in a group like ours, something may happen. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Future Dates

As promised, I said that as soon as I had any information, I'd publish it here!

I can confirm two fully choral Rudgate Services! These are Saturday 25th October, 3.30pm at the church of the English Martyrs in York, where we shall sing the music which we sang at Brinkburn Priory. The other date confirmed is the Carol Service at the Church of St Mary, Bishophill Jnr - also in York. This will be on Thursday 18th December, time not confirmed yet but probably 7.00pm.

I'm still waiting to hear from the Museum Gardens about the Schola Cantorum singing in the grounds/ruins of St Mary's Abbey. I've asked for 19th October, as this should give us enough singers for this event, and also for the monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form which will take place in English Martyrs' Church later that evening.

The Schola are singing Compline again at St Mary's Bishophill this Friday [cough permitting :-) ] at 8.00pm. If you're in the area, do come along and say hello!

Other musical matters

I'm on on leave again. This time it's sick leave. :-( . I crawled into work on Monday morning and lasted for the grand total of 90 minutes before deciding that this wasn't the best move I've ever made and *not* so quietly retiring back home...

Whilst coughing away, in between heaps of medication, I've been reading - both books and blogs, and would like to pick one of the latter out here, and recommend you visit if you haven't already done so!

Over at Holy Smoke, Damian Thomson has started a topic about the state of music in the Catholic Church. This is essential reading if you care about the state of Liturgy (in whichever form) in churches today. Whilst not strictly applicable to Rudgate - as we tend to sing choral music and chant that you would normally only hear either in concerts or on CDs - I thought it worth mentioning here because I've had plenty of experience in listening to and singing this stuff throughout the years.

It's not just the sheer banality of some of these pieces, its also the egos, and dare I say it, the arrogance of the 'composers' too. For many years, [back in the 20th Century!] I used to attend 'Choir' Festivals on a regular basis up in North East England. I use the term 'Choir' very loosely, as most of the music provided - particularly in the latter years that I went, before I saw sense - had no resemblance to any kind of choral music whatsoever! There were one or two good Directors of these events [actually Directors of music at Catholic Cathedrals at the time] but my main recollections are of one of the 'magic circle' of 'composers' not being able to conduct music [not even his own stuff!], and being spoken to in such an arrogant condescending manner by another, that had I not known anything better, it could easily have put me off music for good. I might even have left the church were I not of sterner stuff. A bit extreme perhaps, but sadly, I do know of people who have done just that.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Crisis. What Crisis? :-)

We aquitted ourselves well at Brinkburn today, and received many favourable comments about the music - not just from Fr Brown! It could have been so much worse. We lost our Director in midweek for reasons that are *not* bloggable [trust me!], and I shouldn't really have sung. I'm still coughing as I type this.

Nevertheless, we persevered, and our stand-in conductors, my sister Bernadette, and Jennifer, one of the alto's, deserve great credit for stepping into the breech.

Next on the agenda besides the regular monthly chant Masses and weekly chanting of [usually] Compline is going to be a service - probably Vespers of the BVM in the grounds of St Mary's Abbey in York. This is likely to be on Oct 12th, though I've yet to confirm that with the Museum Gardens authorities.

We then have two other provisional dates to work towards this year. The first being a repeat of the Brinkburn music in a solemn Mass in York, hopefully with Christian back at the helm for the polyphony! This is tentatively scheduled for October 25th. I may be in a position to confirm that tomorrow, as it will be in the same church, English Martyrs, where our monthly chant Masses take place.

The other date, 18th December, also yet to be confirmed, but I'm not anticipating any problems, is our Annual Carol Service at St Mary's Church, Bishophill Junior, also in York..

When all dates are confirmed, they'll be published online, both here and elsewhere. We may even resort to more traditional methods such as letters and posters to advertise them too. ;-)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Chant Mass Settings

I've just been reading some of the comments made about Saturday's Mass in St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle on Fr Brown's excellent blog, particularly about the choice of music.

One comment from 'Claire' made this point. "Mass was beautiful, but I was extremely disappointed that the music chosen was so obscure that no-one could join in the singing, even with the Salve Regina at the end! I think this was a huge opportunity missed for such a showcase."

Talk about a red rag to a bull! Before I get too far on my high horse though, I'd be foolish not to admit that I've made a few mistakes over choice of music in the past, but this isn't one of them. :-)

The Mass was a Solemn High Mass in honour of *Our Lady*. Once it was clear that there weren't enough singers available for a polyphonic mass setting, Missa Cum Jubilo was the obvious chant mass setting to use as it is one of the Masses in the Graduale prescribed for Marian Masses. I could quite legitimately have chosen Missa Alme Pater instead! The same goes for the choice of Solemn Salve as it was a Solemn Mass.

I had actually been asked beforehand if we were going to have the Missa de Angelis 'so the people could join in' but was able to explain quite nicely [I hope!] that Missa Cum Jubilo was the appropriate setting to use. I suspect that 'Claire' is one of those people - and I've come across several, who think de Angelis is the only chant Mass there is, as it's the only one 'they know'! Quite frankly, I find that the over use of this particular setting to the almost exclusion of the other 17 chant Mass settings available - not to mention the ad libitum settings too, profoundly depressing.

It's a matter of education I think. Congregations [and clergy also!] have got to be made aware of the treasures that are readily available. all of these masses can be accessed quite easily by following links provided by the good people who run the Musica Sacra website.

The same educational argument can be applied to the Creed as well. I know Saturday's Mass didn't have one but how many people seem to think that Credo III is the only one that exists? Credo I is actually the setting that should be used most Sundays. There are, to my knowledge, 7 - yes, seven, chant Creeds available!

OK, rant over!

Slightly changing the subject, but staying with chant, another comment from 'seeker' made this point along with a few others. "The temptation to recite the Pater Noster out loud was very strong, and I only just held myself back".

This may come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally, but I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view. I know it's not the done thing for congregations to sing this in the Extraordinary Form at the moment, but Summorum Pontificum does make allowances for it to develop again, as opposed to keeping strictly to the 1962 Missal. This is a development I would welcome, as well as being able to have Masses for particular Feast/Saints Days created since the introduction of '62. That however, is a subject which can be discussed another time. :-)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


I think it's fair to say that this has to be our favourite venue by the proverbial country mile!

There's so much that could be said about it, but I'm not going to! Instead I'm going to point you in the direction of Ian Graham's blog for the Schola Gregoriana of Northumbria. Ian sums it up perfectly. I have to add, it really does have an acoustic to die for, and the contrast between it and the cathedral in Newcastle will be very noticeable...

Brinkburn is by far the furthest of our regular venues, at a round trip of over 250 miles for most of us. With petrol prices as they are, it's going to be a very expensive day, but very worthwhile. We shall be singing the Messe Ave Maris Stella, by Josquin and motets by Guerrero and de Rivafrecha while the Northumbria Schola will sing the Chant Propers of the Mass and a chant recessional.

It's Ian's last Mass in charge of the Schola in fact, so I hope our contribution to what is an annual event will make his swansong all the more memorable for all the right reasons!

If you can get to Northumberland on Saturday please do go - you won't regret it. :-)

It's another busy weekend for some of us though, as the day after, there will be an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata in York. This will all be in Gregorian Chant, sung by our own Schola Cantorum.

Cathedral High Mass & a trip down Memory Lane

Last weekend, I was asked if I could organise the music for the first Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form to take place in St Mary's Cathedral Newcastle upon Tyne since the advent of the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI. The Mass was organised by the Hexham and Newcastle branch of the Holy Family Guild to mark the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Despite having only 3 singers, we acquitted ourselves well - the recording proves it. There were supposed to be more of us, but some dropped out just a few days before, which didn't give us enough time to replace them. A pity for such an important occasion, which made it harder work for the rest of us, especially in an acoustic which isn't the friendliest I've ever encountered. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the result. For another account from the Forest Murmurer, Fr Michael Brown, who I sat next to at the dinner that followed, go here.

Singing at the cathedral again was quite a nostalgic event for me, as I was a member of the Cathedral choir there when I was a student, back in the early 1980's. I would never have imagined then that many years later I would be in charge of the music for a major service there!

I stayed on Tyneside all weekend, deciding not to return home until Monday, as I'm on leave all this week but not taking a proper holiday due to having forked out too much money elsewhere, mainly on car repairs! I'd booked accommodation near the Fenham area of the city where I lived over 25 years ago whilst a student at Northumbria University [Newcastle Polytechnic as it was then known].

My hall of residence was in fact St Mary's College, which was then a Teacher Training College which also let out rooms to other students. It was also home to the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The college closed in 1984 [also my last year there] and is now - after some redevelopment - being used again to provide accommodation for students from Newcastle University. There are still some reminders from the past, but a little worse for wear which is sad to see.

Here's the statue of the Sacred Heart facing what was the the main entrance.

And here it is taken back in the summer of 1983.

I also learned something else over the weekend. There is another cathedral in Newcastle that is perhaps nowhere near as well known as St Mary's or indeed St Nicholas' Anglican Cathedral. This is the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St George & St Athanasios, which is literally only a few yards further along the road from where I was staying.

As my dad's family were from the West End too, I took the opportunity to wander around Elswick where they were born and brought up. Perhaps there's a future post there as there are tales I could relate [if I get the details right] of choir rivalries in Newcastle from times gone by....

This was the first hectic weekend spent up in the North east. Next Saturday, we go to Brinkburn!

St Mary's Abbey

Last September some of our intrepid singers gathered at St Mary's Abbey ruins in the Museum Gardens in York, to sing Vespers of the BVM concluding with the 'York' Salve Regina, which was actually written for the monks of the abbey, and sung there liturgically again for the first time in nearly 500 years!

We're going back this year. When exactly I'm not sure, but it will be a Sunday afternoon, as that's what the Museum Gardens authorities prefer. It will be before Advent though, as I want to do the York Salve there again. Watch this space!

[I can now confirm that we'll be going there on 16th November! We'll be chanting Vespers of the BVM]

Meanwhile here's a clip from last years service

The Office

Nothing to do with Ricky Gervais, or where many of of work every week, this is the Divine Office, usually thought to be the prerogative of monastic communities.

Well it ain't so.

Anyone can sing or read the Office, either in their own communities, or individually. The Schola Cantorum have been singing regularly now in the Church of St Mary, Bishophill Junior in York, after being invited to do so by Andrew Stoker, who is the Priest-in-charge there.

St Mary's is of one of Yorks historic churches, in fact, the oldest church foundation in the city. This church is in use only early on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings for services, Monday evenings for a choir practice [not connected to the church] and the local Greek Orthodox Community use it every first Saturday in the month. The regular congregation is very small, and Andrew, the vicar, is quite keen that the church to be used more often and to be seen to be used.

How we came to take up part-residency there is as a result of a conversation over a drink or three at one of York's fine Real Ale Establishments. :-) We've known each other for many years, long before he and his family came to York, so it's not uncommon for us to share the occasional drink together. When I half-jokingly suggested that we sing the Traditional Catholic Divine Office there, the offer was taken up there and then! I've been given my own key to the place such was his enthusiasm for more use being made of the building.

The Schola Cantorum began by singing Compline at the beginning of last year. We currently sing most Fridays at 8pm, though this can and does change - best to check our Calendar regularly!

We also sing Vespers too, mainly of the BVM, though we have actually sung for other Feast Days. I'd like to get us to sing Sunday Vespers at some stage too, but right now we're busy enough!

We'll be there this Friday @ 8pm, so if you're in the area and want to come to a traditional chanted Compline, come along, and say hello afterwards!

An introduction of sorts..

To anyone reading this, welcome!

After several months of deliberating, I've finally taken the plunge and write on my own. How often and whether I can keep this going remains to be seen. I am an occasional contributor to the Middlesbrough LMS blog, so am not a total novice in the blogosphere, but writing on one's own is somewhat different! I'll be drawing on some of the material I've written there initially [albeit updated] which really has a more natural home here.

You can read all about the choir, and how we originally got going on our website, but if you just want brief details - here they are :-)

We are an ad-hoc choir with the emphasis on restoring Sacred Music to church services in its liturgical context as opposed to the concert hall or recording studio. Members, who are all volunteers, are at present based in the North of England, the East Midlands, and in Scotland.

We normally sing four to five times a year at specially arranged services, usually - but not exclusively - Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite and would like to increase this to sing for other services such as Solemn Vespers and in more locations throughout the UK. We are therefore looking for more people to join us.

The choir is Catholic in ethos, though many of the singers are from other churches, mainly Anglican. Anyone who wishes to sing traditional church music in its original liturgical setting would be made very welcome. Attendance varies from event to event, depending on the voices needed and the location of the churches where we sing. There is no commitment to sing for every service, though the more people can manage the better!

Our repertoire consists mainly of Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, and we occasionally join forces with theSchola Gregoriana of Northumbria to great effect.

Music we have sung so far includes, Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Brevis & Missa Assumpta est Maria Victoria, Requiem & Missa O Quam Gloriosum and motets by Victoria, Palestrina, Byrd, Bruckner & Stanford to name but a few.

To date we have sung in churches mainly in Yorkshire, including the wonderful church of St Mary & St Everilda at Everingham with its glorious acoustic, Leeds Cathedral and Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland. We also have an open invitation to sing in Fontgombault Abbey in France. (The latter depends on an equal number of singing volunteers to make the journey viable both economically and musically!)

That's the sales pitch over - now onto the business of blogging!