This morning Jamie O’Kane received his surplice and was welcomed as a Chorister and full member of the Choir. We hope he enjoys his time at St George’s.
We also saw Carrington Peacock, Patrick Rogan, Jonah Davey and Ben Heatherly graduate into the back row of the Choir. These lovely young men joined the Choir at eight years old and have contributed greatly to the musical life of the Parish. We are delighted that they will continue their choral education in as young men in the back row.
At St George’s, as we reflect upon 200 years of ministry and liturgy, we also look forward. How do we progress? A large part of the ministry and witness in St George’s is complemented by the high standard of church music. This is a delicate heritage, one which needs to be conserved and furthered.
St George’s is one of two male voice parish choirs in Ireland, our sister church, St Bartholomew’s in Dublin being the second. Our choristers, from probationer to A-level student, are on a 10 year learning programme, singing excellent music, learning the craftsmanship of the church musician, readying for further university choral scholarships before finally returning to the choir as adults with a deep appreciation for the legacy which we hold so close.
The choral scholars are well prepared for third level choral scholarships and have an excellent knowledge of the vast repertoire that is found in British collegiate and cathedral churches, as well as one-on-one voice training with Maeve Falconer.
This combination of education and Christian witness ensure that St George’s remains an excellent ambassador for choral church music; its liturgy affords good mass settings, anthems or motets; the service of Evensong also provides opportunity for the singing of canticles, responses, psalms and anthems. Evensong is the ‘bread and butter’ service of most choral scholarships, but many students will never be exposed to it in their own churches.
It was with this thought in mind that we decided to further extend our outreach. Students who have less experience of Evensong are invited to join our choral scholars once a month to form the Choral Scholar Training Choir and learn some of the repertoire that their contemporaries in Britain take for granted. We sent letters to the Heads of Music of the schools in Belfast and the surrounding area and invited interested students to come along to sing Evensong at St George’s.
The A-level music course requires that students study a certain number of sacred anthems, which we are also including in our programme over the year. Students are therefore singing different responses, canticles, hymns and anthems each month, whilst learning and performing works that they will also study in school. In addition, the programme opens up the church to girls’ voices, giving an opportunity which we have been unable to provide previously.
The first Evensong for the Choral Scholar Training Choir took place on September 18th, with 33 students from 7 different schools in the Belfast area. Sunday October 23rd saw the second Evensong, when a graduate of Durham and Cambridge gave advice on choral scholarships.
The music committee is applying for funding from outside bodies, to pay for visiting directors from the British college chapels and cathedrals to come and direct Evensong and meet with students afterwards. Past directors and choristers Nigel McClintock, Ian Keatley and Edward McMullan have already agreed to come and ‘guest’ direct
The students also quickly gain a love for choral music and for the heritage which we safeguard; they will progress it into the next generation.
Please do come along on the third Sunday of each month and support these young people. If you know of a young person who might benefit from the experience, please put him/her in touch with David Falconer (Tel: 07824 553695).
A great morning at St George’s where we welcomed Preston, Ross, Noah, Dan, Stuart and Ben (pictured below) as fully fledged choristers. This sees the end of their training as probationers under Maeve Falconer as the new probationers begin this Friday. Maeve has been auditioning in the past few weeks and there are plenty of new probationers who will need shown the ropes by our new choristers.
We also saw two new head choristers, Hector and James (pictured below) added to the ranks, as Patrick and Jonah have moved to the back row with Carrington and Ben. Again, more future choral scholars, to be trained by Maeve and David.
One new chorister was unable to attend this morning due to a prior commitment, but Jamie will be installed within the coming weeks.
The Parish Choir had a fabulous afternoon on Saturday at a workshop held by former chorister, Edward McMullan. The counter tenor from The Sixteen was home for a short stay after performing a concert in Derry last night and before rushing home to his day job as counter tenor lay clerk in Westminster Cathedral. Edward (Eddie) put the choir through exciting warm ups physical, mental and vocal before working through the Five Part Mass setting by William Byrd.
The choir responded really well creating an incredible sound. The climax came when Eddie also sang with them, a group united in utter musical expression. Eddie is delighted that the choir continues to sing such repertoire and we look forward to welcoming him back to direct a choral evensong for the Choral Scholar Training Choir.
The choristers preparing for the harvest service in Dromore Cathedral on Sunday, October 16th . Music included Blessed be the God and Father and For the beauty of the earth. David enjoyed getting reacquainted with the organ, a Trevor Crowe rebuild. In true style, the service was followed by a tea in the cathedral hall.
Sunday, October 9th saw our Harvest Festival. Bishop John McDowell, the Bishop of Clogher was our guest preacher at our Choral Eucharist at 11am. The setting was Sumsion in F and the Anthem ‘For the beauty of the Earth’ by Rutter.
Just some of the decorations in church for our Harvest Festival.
The choir this afternoon was made up of students from many schools across Belfast, from BRA, MCB, St Malachy’s and Wallace High. Thirty students started a new programme of monthly Evensongs, in which students will learn the repertoire that they might come across as university choral scholars. The sound was very strong and solid, for many it was the first evensong they’d encountered. Next month, October 23rd sees the second such evensong, where the students will sing Morley, Stanford in Bb and Beati quorum via, also by Stanford.
St George’s is holding a mission from next Saturday, September 10th until Sunday September 18th as part of the church’s 200th anniversary.
The mission will be led by a team from the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire. The team is made up of Fr John Gribben CR and five theological students, Sebastian Hamilton, Alex Hobbs, Philip Kennedy, Steffan Mathias and Waldermar Nion.
Fr John is originally from Willowfield in east Belfast and was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1975. Since 1979 he has been a member of the Anglican monastic order, the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield.
The week will take the form of a teaching mission on the theme Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, with morning sessions at 10.30am Monday-Saturday (except Wednesday 14th when the session will be at 11am) and evening mission services Sunday–Friday at 7.30pm, followed by refreshments.
There will be children’s events on the Saturday afternoon, September 17, from 2-4pm.
The team will be commissioned by Archbishop Alan Harper, former Archbishop of Armagh and a former Bishop of Connor, at 11am on Sunday September 11.
The rector of St George’s, the Rev Brian Stewart, said: “Everyone is most warmly welcome to the events of Mission 2016 and we would ask you to pray for is success and particularly for Fr John, Alex, Philip, Steffan, Sebastian and Waldermar.”
Preparations are well advanced now for our mission from 10th – 18th September. The mission will commence with a welcome service on Saturday 10th with introductions to the mission team from the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield.
The team will be formally commissioned by Archbishop Alan Harper on Sunday 11th at our Parish Eucharist, and there will be a mission service that evening at 7.30pm. Throughout the week there will be teaching sessions at 10.30am – noon and an evening service at 7.30pm, with events for children on the afternoon of Saturday 17th.
Put the dates in your diary, and invite your friends to join us too.