Wakey, wakey!

For those early-birds amongst us, next Sunday the early morning service on Radio Four is at 8.10 am, from St Mary’s Cathedral, Great Western Rd, Glasgow.

That’s not the worst bit…you have to be in your seat at 7.40 am!

…..see you there!

…a ?????? of Organists?

A goodly number of un-recognised faces (and bodies) appeared at St Mary’s Cathedral  on Sunday, and whilst there was no choir (one of their days off) the singing was lusty! It turned out that the Ulster Society of Organists were on a trip round parts of Scotland, looking at (not surprisingly) church organs.

Having been taught the organ at a church in Finaghy, near Belfast and had my early days of tinkling the ivories over there, it was lovely to speak to some of my country colleagues. One actually knew the organ where I had been taught and an organ-builder was from my home town.

So I hope they had an enjoyable few days in the coolness of church buildings whilst we were all out enjoying the sunshine!

….but what do you call a gathering of organists?….a console, perhaps?

Watch Songs of Praise next Sunday!

The High School of Glasgow Choir is now through to the final of the BBC Senior School Choir Competition. They were conducted by Frikki Walker, whom we know well at the Cathedral, in a perfect rendering of ‘Just as I am’.

The final is on BBC next Sunday, 10th April, and will be between Glasgow and two other schools….you can guess the one we will be cheering-on!

….but we will be elsewhere, returning from a little West Highland village where we were singing Evensong at the time, so will be desperate to hear the result!

Copy and Paste…

Some of us were at St Mary’s Cathedral last night to help in the preparation of a series of three ‘Songs of Praise ‘ TV Programmes (actually there were about a million other singers there too!).

It was somewhat bizarre because there were no cameras or camerapersons gliding up and down the aisle, or zooming in on an enthusiastic singer. No, just a small booklet with 6 hymns, microphones all over the place, a brass ensemble, organist, a large number of people walking round with headphones and noteboards, and a conductor on an elevated podium, so that we could all see him.

We were there for the first of two evenings; this one was to simply practise and record the sound tape for the six hymns….(did I say ‘simply’?).

To get several hundred singers, with various skill-levels, and the occasional prima-donna thrown in, to sing as a coherent group, and in time with the organ, the brass ensemble, and the conductor, was no mean task! The Conductor was as fullsome in his praise as he was un-compromising in his criticism. It was not only him who had to be pleased because there was an independent Music Advisor and the Executive Producer. Each ‘take’ had to be assessed by all and approved by each in turn. I don’t think there were more than three ‘takes’ for any of them…thank goodness!

There was a lot of standing up and sitting down, and by the end of the 3 1/2 hours, we were all very tired! Tomorrow night we go for the ‘visuals’ where they use the cameras, and the music is conducted but not recorded. We will only hear the recordings we made last night and it is conducted to that speed. The cameras do their work of looking for viewable faces and shots of the building. The sound and vision will all be patched together so that it looks like it was all done at one time. No doubt the presenter, soloists, choir etc will be included and the finished results will seem joined-up.

Must go and get my shirt ironed, hair tidied, and teeth polished for tomorrow night!….have to please my audience after all!

Choral Cathedral

St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow

St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow

I have added a link (see after the list of Categories) to St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Great Western Road, Glasgow, where we hear the most wonderful music.

The organ-playing, hymns, anthems, Liturgy, etc are all of a high standard, and incorporate a wide range of ‘tastes’, both Ancient and Modern, with a high proportion from Scottish composers such as James MacMillan, and John Bell (in whose company I spent a wonderful evening at Iona Abbey many years ago).

St Mary’s is fortunate to have had a great succession of Organist/Choirmasters, and a history of music-making which is now recognised by the BBC as the Morning Service is quite often broadcast from there. It is also known for its peal of bells.

One extra wonderful thing about St Mary’s congregation is that even when the Choir is on holiday, the singing is still great…….this may be in no small part due to the fact that most of the Angelus Singers attend there!

Glasgow’s musical!

Glasgow has just been awarded the status of City of Music by the United Nations cultural body, UNESCO. One of the interesting facts to come out that there are about 127 musical events each week! Seville and Bologna have been the only two previous cities to be awarded this title.


In the interest of balance, I have to admit that Edinburgh was awarded the first City of Literature in 2004.

So we’re up there with the best of them!