'Angels, Saints and Nations Sing'

By Dr Christopher McElroy

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Cathedral, the Cathedral Choir has recorded a CD of music that has played an important role during the Cathedral’s lifetime.
 
Prior to the consecration of the present Cathedral, the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for Lutyens's great cathedral took place in 1933, and for that occasion a new hymn to Christ the King was composed to be sung by the massed crowds. That hymn today is sung worldwide but it is cherished by the Cathedral as its very own: 'Hail Redeemer, King Divine'. Alongside 'Hail Redeemer', the other signature tune for music at the Met in its first 50 years has been the medieval 'Laudes Regiae', with its Latin refrain 'Christus vincit'. It was chanted at the consecration of the Cathedral in 1967, and at many special celebrations since, including annually on the titular feast of Christ the King.
 
Also sung at the consecration was the joyful motet 'Haec Dies' by William Byrd. Moreover, this was the piece that opened the first Two Cathedrals Choirs Concert in June 1967, paving the way for an ecumenical collaboration between the two cathedrals and their musicians that today remains stronger than ever.
 
The Archbishop of Liverpool best known for his ecumenical work was Derek Worlock, who served from 1976–96. In response to the Hillsborough football tragedy in 1989 Archbishop Worlock organised, within 24 hours, a Requiem Mass to pray for those who had died, uniting some 10,000 people who gathered in and around the Cathedral to grieve. An LP recording of that most moving service captures the heartfelt singing of the Liverpool FC anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and the hymn 'Abide with Me', which appear on this disc. One of Archbishop Worlock's favourite hymns was Luke Connaughton's 'Love is his Word', and one of his favourite pieces of choral music – and one he requested to be sung at his funeral – was John Rutter's setting of Psalm 22 (23), 'The Lord is my Shepherd'.
 
His successor Archbishop Patrick Kelly, understanding the transforming power of music and the connection between good music and liturgy, actively encouraged the musical life of the Cathedral as it moved into the new century. The hymn most often selected by Archbishop Kelly, and quoted in his homilies, was the setting of Blessed John Henry Newman's text in 'The Dream of Gerontius', namely 'Praise to the Holiest in the Height'.
 
Shortly after Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP was installed in 2014, he was invited to Rome to receive the pallium of a Metropolitan Archbishop from the hands of Pope Francis, as a symbol of his bond with the Holy Father. The Metropolitan Cathedral Choir was honoured to be invited to accompany its new archbishop and to sing at the pontifical Mass in St Peter's Basilica during which the Holy Father presented each of the newly appointed metropolitan archbishops with this special vestment. On this occasion the Cathedral Choir joined together with the Sistine Chapel Choir to sing Perosi's 'Tu es Petrus' while the Pope prayed before the tomb of his own predecessor, St Peter.
 
These are just some of the pieces on the new CD. Its official launch will take place at Choral Evening Prayer in the Cathedral on Sunday 14 May from 3pm. This will be followed by a short reception in the Gibberd Room at which the CD will be officially launched. All are welcome to attend both Evening Prayer and the reception. The CD will be available to buy at all the major Jubilee events in the Cathedral, or you can order your copy direct from the Cathedral music office: telephone 0151 708 7283 or email music@metcathedral.org.uk.