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).