Cathedral music: November 2019

By Dr Christopher McElroy, Cathedral director of music

October saw a new group of chorister leaders awarded medals to wear during services. These boys and girls have been called to lead their fellow choristers in singing the praise and worship of God. As Jesus exemplified, this call to leadership is one of service – service to their fellow choristers, the choir, the Cathedral, and to Jesus himself. Jesus led his disciples by modelling the behaviour and ideals he wanted them to show others. So it is that our new chorister leaders are called to lead others to God through the gift of music; giving what Saint John Henry Newman so eloquently phrased as 'Praise to the holiest in the height'.

Some of the medals that our leaders wear are named after saints or people connected with the Cathedral. For the girls we have medals named after four female musicians: Hildegard, Cecilia, Miriam and Mary – the singer of the Magnificat. For the boys we have Gibberd (architect of the Cathedral), Heenan (former Archbishop), Downey (former Archbishop) and Lutyens (architect of the Crypt).

During early November we had a particular focus on all those who have died. Much of the most beautiful choral music ever written is inspired by, or in some way linked to, death and the afterlife. On Remembrance Sunday our boy choristers and lay clerks sang Mozart's setting of the Requiem Mass; our Youth Choir sang Gabriel Fauré's melodic setting at Christ the King Parish in Childwall on the evening of 8 November; the girl choristers and Youth Choir gave a concert at Holy Family, Ince Blundell on 15 November; and on Saturday 16th, the boys and lay clerks joined forces with the Anglican Cathedral Choir to give a concert of Mozart's Requiem at the Anglican Cathedral.

November draws to a close with the Cathedral's own titular feast, Christ the King. On this day each year we sing 'Hail Redeemer, King Divine', which the Cathedral likes to call the 'Cathedral hymn'. The hymn was composed and first used in 1933 for the laying of the foundation stone of the Lutyens Crypt here on the Cathedral site. The text was written by Father Patrick Brennan CSsR, a Redemptorist priest based at Bishop Eton, and the music was composed by Father Charles Rigby. A seminary professor from an early age, Rigby was also an accomplished pianist who was occasionally invited to play as principal at the Philharmonic Hall if the celebrity performer failed to appear.