Cathedral music: January 2020

By Dr Christopher McElroy

After the excitement of Christmas, January can feel a bit flat. However, the liturgical season of Christmas continues up to the Solemnity of the Epiphany (and in fact technically all the way up the Presentation of the Lord on 2 February).

To mark the Epiphany this year, as has been tradition for a few years now, we are holding a special Epiphany Carol Service in the Cathedral on Sunday 5 January. The service will open at the Crib, before proceeding with a mixture of carols, readings and motets, all of which reflect on the later parts of the Christmas story and the early parts of Jesus' ministry. The Carol Service will begin at 3pm and all are very welcome.
 
Every two years the Cathedral hosts an Epiphany Service for schools across the Archdiocese. At this year’s service, to be held on Friday 10 January, we are also joined by a delegation from our twin city, Cologne, in Germany. Our visitors play a prominent role in the service, and before they leave they inscribe onto the wall of the Cathedral the initials CMB 2020. CMB stands for ‘Christus mansionem benedicat’ which translates as ‘Christ bless this house’. Of course CMB also represents the names of the three Kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Since before the Middle Ages, Catholics would bless their houses by inscribing with blessed chalk the initials of the three kings above their doorways, a tradition still alive and well in Germany and brought to Liverpool by our friends from Cologne.
 
Liverpool is a unique city in many ways, none more so than in the close relationship between its two Cathedrals. To mark the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the choir and congregation of both Cathedrals will gather at Liverpool Cathedral for Choral Evensong on Sunday 19 January. The joint choirs will sing music by Bairstow, Tallis and Dyson. The preacher will be Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald who has just a short walk up the hill from St Vincent de Paul Church.
 
November 2019 saw the death of two individuals who wielded great influence on the music here at the Cathedral. Monsignor Peter Cookson, our former Dean, was a great supporter of music in the Cathedral so it was a great privilege for the choir to be able to lead the music at his Requiem Mass in the Cathedral. Former master of the music Philip Duffy composed a Gospel acclamation verse especially for the occasion and the choir sang parts of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem.

Colin Mawby KSG also sadly passed away in November. Colin’s connections to the Cathedral began in 1967 when Archbishop Beck commissioned him to write a new Mass, in English, entitled ‘Mass in Honour of Christ the King’; it was first sung as part of the opening celebrations of the Cathedral. During Archbishop Worlock’s time Mawby was commissioned to write the ‘Liverpool Mass’ for congregation, cantor, choir, organ and optional brass and timpani. This Mass was subsequently rewritten in 2012 to match the words of the new translation and first used in this format at the Mass to celebrate the golden jubilee of Archbishop Patrick Kelly. In 2017 Colin was commissioned to compose a setting of the Te Deum as part of the Jubilee celebrations of the Met.

May God grant eternal rest to these souls and may they sing with the heavenly choirs for all eternity.