2019 saw the introduction of a new recital series taking place in Cathedral Hall on Sundays after the 11.15am Solemn Mass. The idea came from one of our Choral Scholars, James Farmer, who thought it would be a great opportunity to raise a little extra for the Choir Fund as well as give singers the platform for singing solo repertoire. The response from audiences has been extremely enthusiastic and we’re delighted that the series will continue. The summer recital series finished off with an ‘extra’ in the form of a joint recital by Ellie Martin and Alex Patterson, in a special effort to raise funds for the Lourdes and Paris trip. Audience member, Jane McDermott, reviews the performance.
Being a lover of music and singing in particular, I was very keen to go and hear two people sing who I’d heard are doing amazing things with music at the Cathedral in Nottingham. Alex Patterson and Ellie Martin put together a little recital after Sunday’s Mass on 23 June with Chris Foster as their accompanist, in order to raise monies to take their Cathedral’s Youth Choir to Lourdes in July 2019.
What an absolute musical bonanza! Alex, who I understood hadn’t sung solo much in recent days, sang a work he’d composed himself called ‘Songs of Innocence’. It was a Song Cycle in five short movements based on a poem by William Blake, of the same title. The lovely interchange between piano and voice reminded me of Benjamin Britten’s music. Alex performed like a regular soloist with a focused sonorous musical tenor voice. His diction was very good too. Ellie, an established soprano soloist (I heard her sing the soprano solo in Mozart’s Requiem some months ago and was very impressed) was a delight to listen to. She chose four pieces of music by Handel, Fauré, Schubert and Schumann, all sung in foreign languages, to display different moods and showing her ability to use her voice appropriately. What a pure, clear, bright soprano voice she has. I hadn’t heard Faure’s ‘Lydia’ before but loved her performance, and her Schumann’s ‘Widmung’ in particular.
Finally, the two of them sang the duet ‘All I Ask of You’ from The Phantom of the Opera. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance both individually and together. And I mustn’t forget Chris Foster who accompanied them very musically and appropriately.
The short lunchtime recital was a great way to spend 30 minutes on a Sunday and my friend and I weren’t the only people who thought so by the audience’s clapping at the end.
Friend of the Choir, Jessica Smith, reviews our latest Cabaret evening held on Saturday 15 June to raise funds for our Lourdes & Paris Tour.
Despite having been to the cathedral many times before and hearing the fabulous music department perform in masses, services and concerts throughout the liturgical year, this was my first time at one of their famous cabarets. I had heard great things about it from previous years so I was greatly looking forward to the evening’s performances. They did not disappoint!
Tables and chairs were packed into the parish hall which still only just managed to hold the huge audience number. A free glass of bubbly waited for us by the door and a variety of nibbles were laid out on each of the tables. The front of the hall was lit beautifully and created a spotlight on the grand piano whose keys were being tinkled by Dave (who also later delighted us with two songs) as we all found our seats and waited for the singers to take to the stage.
The evening hosted an eclectic mix of vocal performances, each one wonderfully told and beautifully sung. Lots of show tunes made an appearance, from the well-known, such as ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story and ‘There are worst things I could do’ from Grease, to the less familiar ‘Gorgeous’ from The Apple Tree and ‘Sunday in the Park with George’. Several timeless classics, a few film soundtracks and a moving arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen completed the line-up of solo and small ensemble pieces. We also had the pleasure of hearing from members of the brilliant Youth Choir who gave mature and sensitive renditions of ‘Rule the world’ and ‘Dream a little dream of me’. Interspersed between these acts were group numbers sung by the whole Choir which included a very lively version of ‘Old MacDonald’ and finished the evening with the serene ‘Close to you’.
Not only were the members of the Choir providing our entertainment for the evening, they also doubled up as our waiters and waitresses, topping up glasses and bringing out a selection of canapés including scones with jam and cream to finish! Every member of the choir was thoughtful and attentive while each taking their turn to give us a whole range of hilarious, touching, upbeat and thoughtful
One necessity for the evening was some musical accompaniment for all of the singers and the seemingly effortless skills of Alex Patterson and Nick Milburn brought the whole occasion together.
None of this would have been possible without Alex and Ellie who, alongside various members of the Choir, organised a spectacular event which ran smoothly and had an informal and relaxed atmosphere throughout. All in aid of the Choir’s recent trip to Lourdes, this magical evening was entertaining to watch and a joy to listen to. Thank you Alex, Ellie and the entire Choir, see you for the next one in February!
by Alex Patterson
After their much-deserved summer break, the Cathedral Choir returned to sing 11.15am Mass a few weeks earlier than intended. This was to say thank you and farewell to Robert Gower, who stepped down as Cathedral Organist to take up a new post in Berwick upon Tweed, where he and his lovely wife Pauline are relocating.
Robert joined the Cathedral Music Team back in June 2014 when I took over from Neil Page as Director of Music. I had just turned 26 and, as Robert liked to tell people, he was the inverse age, and it was the start of a very interesting journey as we began to explore how to unleash the potential of the Music Department.
It’s rather humbling to look back to see what has been achieved in the last five years – none of which would have been possible without the support and expertise of Robert. There are events like the first contemporary performance of John Carol Case’s Requiem for an Unknown Soldier, which we gave back in 2015 on Remembrance Sunday, and which Robert was responsible for editing for publication. As well as introducing me to a whole range of neglected motets and indeed the Gretchaninoff Missa Festiva, now a staple of our repertoire, Robert also provided a catalogue of descants and arrangements of carols, and began writing a complete 3-year cycle of responsorial psalms (which
he completed in June 2019). His imaginative hymn accompaniment and extemporisations transformed our animation of the liturgy and he has certainly given us all an education in the variety of organ music which he played at Mass. It’s no secret that pieces we heard on a Sunday would be arrangements or editions he was working on for new organ compilation albums for Oxford University Press, and indeed, the latest ‘Ceremonial Organ Music Book 2’ published last month features a whole range of music that was first heard here in Nottingham over the last year, whether we realised it at the time or not.
I am indebted to Robert for many things but am extremely grateful for his dedication and outstanding musicianship which he has shown throughout his tenure. His experience and expertise has directly shaped the evolution of the Music Department over the last five years and we will certainly miss him. I’m glad that our paths will still cross as trustees of the Finzi Trust.
The music for Robert’s last Mass with us on Sunday 25 August was a very deliberate selection by Robert himself, including the Missa Festiva by Gretchaninoff, the first performance of Robert’s new arrangement of Dora Pejačević’s Ave Maria, and my own setting of the hymn Brother, sister, let me serve you, which included some very pertinent reminders – ‘when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you’.
On behalf of everyone at the Cathedral, I’d like to wish Robert and his wife Pauline all the very best for their next chapter.
Local amateur singer Rik Ludlow takes a look back at our Hymnathon, which took place at the Cathedral on Saturday 18 May 2019 to raise funds for our tour to Lourdes.
As a young child, words meant little – I had scarcely started to talk before I started school. My earliest memories of church and Sunday Service were of sitting through seemingly endless periods of voices droning on…. and on….and on…. with endless dull, unintelligible and meaningless words. Ladies in large hats sat with glazed expressions clutching their even larger handbags whilst I tried to find interest in the wood-grain of the pews as I sat waiting for the 'good bits'. Eventually my patient purgatory period would be rewarded. The large hats would shuffle to their feet and I’d be left sat on the pew surrounded by a crush of bodies, ‘Sunday Best’ coats and handbags. The glorious sound of the church organ would start… Yes - a HIM! This was what made it worthwhile….all the grown ups would sing the same tune several times, and some of the men would sing a different tune that seemed to fit….I would sit and soak it up. Then on to more purgatory and voices droning. After the service, I’d be keen to get straight home and to the toy box. There, I had a dark brown and cream recorder….I could sit in the playroom and play the tunes I had just learned until called for dinner.
It was many years later that I learned that my pre-school apparent inability to talk but ability to play hymn tunes on my recorder was considered unusual – Hallelujah for the power of hymns! I remember working out that a HIM usually referred to a man called Jesus… but sometimes people sang about a 'Mary' but this was also a HIM, even though the Mary in my infant class at school was a 'HER'. This left me confused well into my infant school life. One day our teacher taught us that we must ask “Why” if unsure of anything. I am told that this prompted me to exit from my almost mute state and ask my first question. I asked about HIMs and HERs….to be told that the church HIM had a WHY in it. Hymns (with a y) it was, from then on, words started to make more sense, and the WHY helped me to think about the meanings of the words…. Quite a revelation!
My love of hymns has remained strong over the past six decades: As a church then Cathedral Chorister they became my 'bread and butter' (the anthems were the 'cake'!), and one of the few benefits of eventually losing my treble abilities was that I could at last sing “that other tune that the men sang” and I began to appreciate more fully the rich harmonies embedded in so many hymn tunes.
Now, the words of the Christian liturgy lend a therapeutic value in their regular and predictable repetition. The joy, however, comes from the HYMNS, just as it did 60 or so years on.
The opportunity to attend my first ever Hymnathon courtesy of Nottingham Cathedral was irresistible: 18th May 2019 is in my diary as a full day of joy, thinking about the ‘why’ in each hymn. Alex, Ellie and their relay teams of singers, organists and instrumentalists provided a fabulous ‘Cook’s Tour’ through hymns ancient, modern and revised, with most of the long-established favourites along with many (for me) new, previously undiscovered gems, such as ‘It is well with my soul’.
The selection ranged from the rich Victorian harmonies through to the rock’n’roll, ‘happy clappy’ modernist evangelical.
The format of the day was great: The daytime sessions consisted of several ‘Juke Box hymn collections’, where punters like myself were free to request their favourites for a suitable contribution to the Choir Lourdes fund, either at the time or via online ‘advanced sponsorship’. These were interspersed with related organ interludes from the organists including Robert Gower and Peter Siepmann, and some simply stunning a cappella quartet slots – ‘Amazing Grace’ sung by Alex, Ellie and two of their choir scholars was simply delicious!
The ‘a cappella’ treatment of several hymns, such as ‘Love Divine, all hopes excelling’ with just 4 singers, allowed the full richness of the 4-part harmony to be heard and appreciated. So much of this can be drowned when the organ is used to support, lead or deafen! ‘Panis Angelicus’ sung a cappella by the quartet was like liquid gold. Several of the choir slots included superb descant verses, with the final verse of ‘Crown Him with many crowns’ standing out. Ellie’s Youth Choir really proved their worth, with some very young children singing their hearts out and clearly uplifted by their immersive
experience. My only disappointment was that the Cathedral was not packed with hymn-lovers throughout the afternoon; the musicians and the music were worthy and deserving of more support.
The evening event made up for this, with the Cathedral well-filled with an appreciative audience, the congregation swelling the sounds of the choir for the ‘participation’ hymns to make a glorious sound, supported by the addition of singers from local choirs. To hear many hundreds of voices uplifted in harmony to the glory of God, and be surrounded by that sea of sound, has to be one of the great experiences of Christian worship.
The end result – I understand the event raised a useful sum towards the Choir trip to Lourdes. My ‘discretionary spend’ budget for the quarter was exceeded and I was hoarse for at least a week (about the same recovery time as my legs needed from my last marathon). Many participants will, like myself, now be aware of other musical gems in the hymn repertoire, and I would like to think that the event allowed many participants to think about the meanings of the lyrics in many of the hymns – the ‘why’ we believe.
Download a copy of the Gala Concert Programme, which included music by W. A. Mozart, Alex Patterson, and Stormzy.
Youth Choir parent, Andrea Lark, looks back at the Youth Choir's Summer Concert on Friday 12 July 2019.
All photographs by Ian R Marshall Photography
On a sunny Friday in mid-July (not a raindrop in sight!) the Cathedral Youth Choir gathered for their summer concert and much-anticipated performance of “Captain Noah and his floating zoo”. The excitement in the Cathedral Hall was palpable. This was to be the culmination of several weeks of intense rehearsal for the 30+ members of the Youth Choir, who range in age from 7 – 18.
To open the concert, the large and supportive audience of family, friends, parishioners and Cathedral clergy were treated to a range of individual items to open the concert. The girls’ group Vivace sang a beautiful arrangement of ‘Dream a little dream of me’ with musical sensitivity, whilst boys’ group Cambiata’s moving performance of the spiritual ‘Steal away’ created a prayerful sense of calm. Several solo instrumental and vocal items followed, including the piano works Raindrop Prelude by Chopin, JS Bach’s Gigue in G major, an arrangement for oboe of Fauré’s Après un rêve, and a piano arrangement of Alice the camel, which was played with confidence and enthusiasm by one of the Youth Choir’s youngest members.
Solo singers performed from a similarly diverse range of genres, spanning pop songs and traditional folk melodies, as well as music from films, opera and musicals. The young people’s love of music and their enthusiasm for sharing this in performance was a joy to see and greatly appreciated by the warmly supportive audience.
The first half of the concert concluded with the presentation by Bishop Patrick of certificates to the five ‘founding’ members of Vivace who will leave Nottingham at the end of the summer to pursue higher education. Their energy (the group is aptly named!) and commitment as well as their support for the youngest members of the choir will be missed.
Following a brief interval, the Youth Choir gathered to perform Captain Noah and his floating zoo. Written in 1970 by Joseph Horowitz, with often humorous lyrics by Michael Flanders, this cantata retells the story of Noah from Genesis chapters 6 – 9. The choir clearly enjoyed performing this and made the challenging music sound easy (I’m assured by Youth Choir Director Ellie Martin that it’s not!). The harmonisations, tricky rhythmic phrases and at times demanding tempo were tackled with confidence, and the singers responded sensitively to the mood of the music and were attentive to their (very accomplished!) pianist, and to Ellie’s direction. Every word was crisply enunciated and clearly audible, and the singers captured the mood of the music brilliantly. As the monotonous drumming of the rain petered out, the younger members went happily ‘running down the gangplank’ and the singers joyfully announced the appearance of the rainbow and God’s promise never to send another flood in the uplifting final waltz.
This collective team effort from the Youth Choir, its Director Ellie, rehearsal pianist Eden, and accompanist for the concert, Michael Martin, contributed to an engaging performance of a very high standard. As a parent of a ‘retiring’ member of the Youth Choir it was lovely to see, once again, the choir members’ enjoyment in singing together, the joy they bring to others and the strength and enthusiasm with which they contribute to the musical life of the Cathedral.
I remember a conversation a couple of years ago with our then Cathedral Dean, Canon Geoffrey Hunton, who admitted it was a dream of his that one year the Cathedral Choir would join the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. I was very much interested in the idea and 2019 felt like the right time to do it – celebrating the joint 175th anniversaries of both our Cathedral Church and the birth of St Bernadette. Once Ellie Martin had joined the music department, it became clear that opening up the opportunity to our Youth Choir members was a vital part of the trip, and so began a long period of planning, organising and, ultimately, a huge amount of fundraising, in order to make the trip happen.
Followers of our work will be well aware of the range of events that have taken place specifically to raise funds for the trip – from our Hymnathon in May (a logistical minefield in itself!) and our Cabaret Evening in June, to a whole host of cake sales, tombolas, recitals, carolling, and more concerts. The support from the Cathedral community has been incredibly heart-warming, and knowing we had such support from the home team as we made our journey to Lourdes was a huge relief. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to all those who donated towards the costs of this trip and we hope that the accounts from those who were there and experienced it first hand will be a testament to how
important this trip was for so many people.
Putting a tour together like this doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, energy, patience and teamwork. The support of Pilgrimage Director, Fr Gregory Tobin, and Assistant Director, Fr Simon Gillespie, was integral to the success of the liturgies in Lourdes. I spent a lot of time with Fr Simon to work through the musical choices, compose new psalm settings, and select a huge variety of music. The support of the Diocesan Safeguarding Team and the tireless efforts of Ellie Martin in ensuring the safety of all on the trip cannot be overstated. We are grateful too for the support of Lisa Mackenzie and Hannah Whelan throughout the tour in helping to look after our tour members.
We are particularly grateful for the support of John-Charles Tanner, a relatively new parishioner to the Cathedral, who just happened to be close friends with Alain Cherel, the celebrated trumpeter of the Sanctuary at Lourdes. John-Charles was able to act as a conduit between Alex (who speaks very little French) and Alain (who speaks very little English), to facilitate showcasing the choir at the Marian Procession, Eucharistic Procession and International Mass. He was also responsible for arranging our concerts in Abbatiale de Saint-Savin and l'Eglise Saint Jean, Tarbes, for saving the day after hearing the news about Notre-Dame and enabling us to sing Mass at La Madeleine. His support and encouragement throughout the process (including shaking our blue donation buckets at Sunday Recitals) has been crucial to the tour and we are so grateful for all his help.
As Director of Music, it’s always good to see that the choir’s work is being recognised as an integral part of the Cathedral and wider Diocesan mission. The relationship between the two seemed to be so intrinsically linked throughout the Pilgrimage. To see members of the Cathedral congregation, wider Diocesan pilgrims, and pilgrims from all over the world visibly moved by what we were doing (such as singing hymns for pilgrims outside the Baths), beaming with pride (as we sang Bruckner’s Ave Maria at the Marian Procession, or singing throughout the International Mass), or in quiet contemplation (during the Reconciliation Service), felt like a huge validation for the work we do, not just as part of the Lourdes experience, but back at home on a weekly basis. The support of Bishop Patrick throughout the trip, alongside other Nottingham pilgrims, at our concert in l'Eglise Saint Jean, Tarbes, was a particular highlight.
We are blessed by such a wonderful community, which has been enriched, and relationships deepened, as a result of this experience. I cannot thank you all enough for the role you’ve played in making it happen.
There is always some sense of trepidation before embarking on the mammoth task of organising, fundraising and going on any choir tour, and our tour to Lourdes and Paris was no different. This was heightened even further by the fact that this year was the Cathedral’s 175th anniversary and the first time that the Choir has visited Lourdes. For me, however, it was the perfect way to round off my first year at university and my first year as a choral scholar at St Barnabas.
A few hours before flying to Lourdes we embarked on learning some of the varied and often technically challenging music. We constantly refreshed and revisited this music throughout the week, meaning that by the end it felt much more familiar than it had at the start. Musically, the highlights for me included Tavener’s ‘Mother of God Here I Stand’ and Durufle’s ‘Ubi Caritas’. It was also very
special to sing the ‘Mass of St Barnabas’ which was written specially for the Cathedral’s 175th anniversary by our Director of Music, Alex Patterson, and felt like we were bringing a piece of Nottingham over the channel to Lourdes.
I found that one of the best things about the tour in Lourdes was the variety of locations and services we had the opportunity to sing at - from the International Mass, where thousands of people from all over the world joined together and we heard mass sung in six different languages, to singing for only a few people at the Baths. The reception everywhere we sang in the Sanctuary of Lourdes was excellent and I felt really lucky to positively impact people’s time of worship in Lourdes. Every place we sang offered its own unique atmosphere, but the Marian Procession was unlike anywhere I’ve ever sung before. Thousands of people processing with their candles made it extremely atmospheric, especially when hearing everyone sing the Ave Maria.
We were lucky enough to do two concerts during our time in Lourdes, as well as singing all day within the Sanctuary. The two venues for our concerts, Abbatiale de Saint-Savin and l'Eglise Saint Jean, could not have been more juxtaposed from one another. Nevertheless, receiving a brilliant reception in both places made the hard work worth it. Furthermore, the support from members of the Nottingham Diocese who were on the pilgrimage really added to the tour experience. It was great to add something extra to their experience of Lourdes and it was lovely to hear how much it had influenced them.
After a long train journey on the Friday we had a definite change of pace when we arrived in Paris. Having never been to Paris before I was really excited to explore the city and to sing in some incredible venues. La Madeleine and St Eustache both lived up to and exceeded expectations, and were very different from the more intimate venues in Lourdes. We also had the chance to go and see the Notre-Dame Cathedral and to sing outside. Whilst tinged with sadness, I felt so lucky to be able to see a world landmark and sing the French ‘Hymne à la Vierge’ outside. We rounded off the tour with a group meal; it was lovely to have the whole choir together and reflect on what had been a jam-packed but unforgettable week.
Although the music was the focal point of this tour, the chance to spend time with the friends I’ve made from the Cathedral Choir this year and to get to know the Youth Choir better was also a massive highlight. I’m really pleased to be coming back next year and can’t wait for more tours in the future. Thank you to Alex and Ellie for organising such a fantastic tour!
Our son Benjamin is a new member of the Youth Choir, joining in January 2019. Everyone has been very welcoming, and we were really pleased when Benjamin was invited on the Lourdes-Paris trip. Benjamin was keen to go, as the choir were going to sing at Notre-Dame and we thought it would be a lovely opportunity for us to visit Paris ahead of the choir and do some sightseeing. Then on 15th April, we all received the tragic news that Notre-Dame was on fire. Singing in Notre-Dame was off, but the Choir would still sing in Paris.
The 14th July arrived quickly, and we waved the choir bon voyage on their journey to Lourdes. It was great to see and hear the choir on the Lourdes YouTube channel. They sounded fantastic. We arrived in Paris on 17th July. Our apartment was in the 5th Arondissement, near Rue Moffetard, which is full of food shops, cafes and restaurants.We bought a Paris museum pass and visited lots of art galleries. We love our son, but it was refreshing not to have a 15-year-old with us saying how bored he was!
The choir arrived on Friday 19th July. We had a couple of hours with Benjamin and heard all about singing in the International Mass in front of 5,000 people and how well the choir had been received at a couple of concerts outside of Lourdes. On the Saturday morning we met up with the choir near Notre-Dame. They may not have been able to sing in Notre-Dame, but they performed two songs outside it and were well received by all the tourists (including a good number of parents who had also decided to visit Paris).
The choir sang at two masses over the weekend, firstly, on Saturday evening at Saint Eustache, which is a very impressive gothic style church. It houses the largest organ in France and Mozart held his mother’s funeral here. The choir sang really well, but due to the height of the church their sound was slightly lost. The second mass, on Sunday morning, was at La Madeleine. This church was originally built as a temple of glory for Napoleon’s armies. At one point it was going to be a railway station and finally in 1842 it was consecrated as a church. The acoustics here were great and the choir sounded fantastic. They were accompanied by a countertenor cantor who had a very unique voice. La Madeleine also has a famous organ, and Gabriel Fauré was an organist here. The organ was very loud and electrifying.
Our time in Paris was over. We said our goodbyes and raced back to Nottingham via the Eurostar ahead of the Choir. Huge thanks needs to be given to Alex, Ellie, Hannah and Lisa for leading the Choir and looking after everyone. I’m sure it was very tiring for them, but they enabled all the young people to have experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Benjamin had a great time and is still talking about the music, all the places where the choir performed and the people he sang with.
My tour to Lourdes and Paris was fabulous. Apart from all the late nights and then waking up early, it was so fun and a great experience. My favourite parts of the trip to Lourdes were the international mass, the garden party, and the concerts.
In Paris, we mainly only had free time, and I enjoyed visiting the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and the Louvre Museum. We took many pictures and got a small tan.
I hope we can fundraise enough to go every year. As well as us enjoying the trip, the people who got the experience of listening to us appreciated it thoroughly as well. We even had a couple who put in 20 euros and then swapped it with 50 euros at our concert.
As well as having this experience, I also got to know everyone more and grow stronger faithfully.
A reflection on the Cathedral Choirs' role on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes from former Cathedral Dean, Canon Geoffrey Hunton
The annual pilgrimage to Lourdes is a significant event in the life of the Diocese of Nottingham.
This year as usual three hundred people from across the Diocese made the pilgrimage by air, coach and train.
Lourdes can and does evoke several emotions; this year was no exception.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy five-day pilgrimage there was I felt amongst our pilgrims a great sense of calm and an entering into of the spirit of Lourdes – of oneness with each other, the Lord and his Blessed Mother.
Why was that? I will leave the reader to come to their own conclusion.
A reflection on the Cathedral Choirs' role on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes from Pilgrimage Director, Fr Gregory Tobin
Music is vital in our lives.
It can set the mood, raise morale and draw people together. On our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, we rely heavily on musicians to assist all pilgrims as we journey through life with the pains and loads that are ours.
This year we were blessed on our pilgrimage to have with us the Cathedral Choir of St Barnabas under the leadership of Alex Patterson.
During the preparation for this years pilgrimage Alex went to Lourdes with the Directorate to visit the Churches, Basilicas and the sacred Grotto where the choir would be singing. These few days during February, which coincided with the Feast day (February 11th) of Our Lady of Lourdes, also gave Alex the opportunity to meet the Sanctuary leads on liturgy and music, including the trumpet player who dovetails beautifully with the organ for the big occasions. In a previous life Fr Simon Gillespie spent a lot of time at the Cathedral, and so is very familiar with the personnel, including the Cathedral Choir. He was therefore able to co-ordinate the travel arrangements, accommodation and programme, together with the endless paperwork and T-shirts, which are a must for a journey of this kind.
Our first Mass was outside in the autel de l’esplanade adjacent to the rosary square, so very difficult with the acoustics, but we knew the choir would attract a lot of attention as people crossing the square were drawn over by the quality of the singing.
The following day (Tuesday) a certain sensitivity was needed with the anointing of the sick and the reconciliation service.
Every Wednesday in Lourdes we have an international Mass in the underground basilica (capacity 25,000) with all the pilgrimages in Lourdes at that time from the world over, coming together liturgically. The choir were resplendent as part of the larger Basilica choir and were given the opportunity to sing a motet. All 269 pilgrims from Nottingham were bursting with pride!
Each evening at 9pm there is torchlight procession for an hour. It is a spectacular occasion with the candles, thousands of people and of course the music, which is amplified around the domain. During our pilgrimage we participated twice in the torchlight procession and led it on the Wednesday. The choir took a lead with the Sanctuary leads, and again were give the opportunity to sing an impressive solo piece.
Our garden party gave everyone the opportunity to share their party piece in a sunny relaxed venue. How lovely to see and hear the choir sing some witty ditties to great effect. A nice change from the formal fare.
A concert in a local abbey was enjoyed by all who made the journey up the mountain and was an ideal foretaste for what was to come in Paris.
You expect the Cathedral Choir to be technically perfect and professional in their delivery. What I enjoyed was the moments between the musical performances when the members were just part of the Nottingham pilgrimage engaging with the sick and lifting their spirits.
Music is indeed vital to our lives. The presence of the Cathedral Choir on this year’s Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes brought musical perfection and beauty in a place that challenges us all to excel in all that we do.