Magazine article The American Organist

Music at Belfast Cathedral

Magazine article The American Organist

Music at Belfast Cathedral

Article excerpt

THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH of St. Anne in Belfast is one of the UK's most recently built cathedrals. It is unusual in that it serves two separate Anglican dioceses (Connor, and Down and Dromore), but houses only the "secondary seats" of the bishops of those dioceses. The idea of a cathedral for Belfast was first mooted in 1888, when Queen Victoria granted the town of Belfast its "city" status. Some eleven years passed before the foundation stone was laid in 1899, and, unusually, the nave of the cathedral was built around and over the old parish church of St. Anne, allowing that church to remain in use while the cathedral was constructed around it. The nave opened for worship in 1904, and the cathedral was gradually completed with the addition of the central crossing, the west front, and the west side chapels in the late '20s and early '30s. Work stopped for the duration of the Second World War, and the cathedral just barely escaped nearby bombing. Work began again in 1955, culminating in the completion of the east ambulatory, the north and south transepts, and the "Spire of Hope," which was installed in 2007.

The cathedral has had a choir from its earliest days, beginning as a large, choral-society affair under the direction of the thenlegendary Captain C.J. Brennan (organist, 1904-1964), and assuming a more normal, cathedral-style constitution under successive directors Harry Grindie, Jonathan Gregory, Andrew Padmore, David Drinkell, and Philip Stopford.

In 2012, with my appointment, and that of the former dean, John Mann, the cathedral took the opportunity to reevaluate its musical provision. It was decided to begin creating a "new tradition" at the cathedral, a tradition where many singers, both choristers and adults, explore ways in which to enhance the liturgy with music-not a unique aim at all, but common with any institution that understands the value of musical and liturgical expression. In the subsequent years, the music department has grown to include a boys' choir, a girls' choir, a junior girls' choir, and a team of lay clerks and choral scholars, and the cathedral is now the only church in Northern Ireland to offer a schedule of daily sung worship-Choral Evensong is sung Monday through Friday and on Sunday, with a Choral Eucharist on Sunday mornings.

While rethinking exactly which services should be choral, and sung by which choir, we also had an opportunity to discuss exactly what should be sung in each service. That we eventually, and unsurprisingly, settled on a daily pattern of Choral Evensong is testament to that service's central position in the UK cathedral and church music world. Indeed, Choral Evensong is one of the few services that currently attract growing numbers of congregants. …

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