News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
- A LOOK BACK AT OUR COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE
At the time of writing the Prime Minister had just announced further restrictions to put the country on alert level four, the second highest level on the scale of measures following an increase of coronavirus cases. This pandemic is continuing to have a profound effect on every aspect of our society with some people and sectors being affected more than others.
Thankfully, we are still able to have public celebrations of mass and the celebration of other sacraments with limited congregations but the regular life of our parishes and Cathedral have been significantly affected by the current situation. Our normal pastoral contact with people and groups cannot take place and with so much uncertainty regarding how long we will have to continue like this we can’t plan ahead for events and special services which are normally at the heart of our Cathedral life.
One recent concession we have been given for services is that we can now have a small number of singers singing if they are safely distanced from one another. With the support of ‘Friends of Cathedral Music’ we have been given a small grant so that we can manage to stream choral evening prayer online as well as having some limited choral music at public services.
The Cathedral music department are now beginning to prepare recorded choral services for November, Advent and the Christmas period. These will be available for all to watch at the appropriate seasons in readiness in case we are not able have any special services at these times.
Canon Anthony O’Brien – Cathedral Dean
Back from the Silence
by Dr Christopher McElroy - Director of Music, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
A cathedral chorister's life is a hectic one. Daily rehearsals and liturgies, schoolwork, instrument and vocal lessons and practice are just some of the things on their agenda each day. But, since the end of March the choristers of the Metropolitan Cathedral, just like those from other Cathedrals, have been silent.
Well, they haven’t quite been silent, and in fact, our choristers have been working hard away from the Cathedral. During lockdown and through to the end of July, our choristers were taking part in daily rehearsals and theory sessions on Zoom with Cathedral music staff. A great deal was achieved during this time, however, the raison d'etre of a Cathedral chorister is to sing at liturgies in their Cathedral.
In July, when government guidance permitted it, the Cathedral began welcoming the congregation to Mass once again, and over the summer music has been provided by a cantor and organist at the main Sunday Masses. On 13 September we were excited for the first time to have a small vocal ensemble of four singers leading the music at the Solemn Mass. Judging by the e-mails received and comments made on the livestream, the return of vocal music at Mass was indeed welcome, and enabled people to more deeply enter into the liturgical celebration. Over the next few weeks, we plan to increase the number of adult singers leading the music at Sunday Mass.
Before we were able to reintroduce choral music, hours of time, effort and planning were spent drawing up risk assessments to allow the singers to contribute their artistry to the Sunday Mass safely. Amongst other things, this means ensuring that all adult singers are spaced 2 meters apart, not sharing music and not singing over loudly.
Even more planning has gone into planning the safe return of our choristers to singing. Unlike many other English Cathedrals, where full daily choral services have now resumed, we have decided to take a very cautious approach to returning our choristers to their role in leading the sung liturgy in our Cathedral.
From 22 September the choristers began rehearsing on a daily basis in our two choir schools: Runnymede St Edward’s and St Edward’s College. Having not sung together for six months, we have planned a full five weeks of rehearsals in school before we consider whether they are ready to sing once again in the Cathedral. Choristers operate very much as a team, and although they have been working together via Zoom, nothing can replicate the joy and experience of singing together in the same space. I hope that in the November issue we will have news of when our choristers will be returning to singing in the Cathedral for Mass.
The streaming of Mass on the internet via Facebook and YouTube has become an important means of evangelization during the last six months for Catholic parishes worldwide. Viewer numbers for the Masses broadcast from the Cathedral have been amongst the highest in the UK, so it was decided to invest in permanent equipment in the Cathedral to allow for the continued streaming of liturgical events.
As part of this installation a camera has been installed in the choir area, along with high specification microphones. It is our hope that these new facilities will allow the ministry of the choir to be shared beyond the walls of the Cathedral, amongst people throughout the country, and indeed the world, allowing us to (virtually) echo Psalm 117 to ‘Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news.’