Tuesday, 16 September 2008

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!

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