Mass of Thanksgiving – Aberdeen Diocesan Choir: 17 September 2022
Welcome to St Mary’s Cathedral. My name is David Meiklejohn, one of the founder members of The Aberdeen Diocesan Choir, and presently Chair of the Choir’s Management Committee.
Today we celebrate 21 years of the Choir’s history in serving a Church which providentially has such a rich history of liturgical and sacred music.
Today also provides an opportunity to thank so many people. Each and every member of the Choir should be commended for their tremendous commitment. None of us could provide the service we do without the aid of so many willing colleagues:
Our much-valued Cathedral Deacon and diocesan M.C., the Cathedral secretary, our accompanists, sound/video engineers, readers and altar servers, and so many others without which we could not operate. Thank you.
Importantly, all of our Bishops during the past 21 years have been very encouraging too and not least our present bishop, Hugh Gilbert, who has generously agreed to be with us today in celebrating this Mass of Thanksgiving.
I would like to pay special tribute to the present the Director of Music, whose commitment and musicianship, (as you will hear today), has been quite phenomenal. Her predecessor, Dr Roger Williams, who we also thank, has written a few words for this occasion and has asked me to read them to you:
Congratulations on your 21st anniversary to you as a Choir, and to your Musical Director, Liz. This is cause for great celebrations. I remember my time with you, some years ago now, with great affection and recall how warm and welcoming you were.
I have a clear recollection of several Diocesan Masses at the wonderful Pluscarden, of many Chrism Masses in places distant from Aberdeen, and perhaps with most warmth the Carol concerts which we hosted at St Marys Cathedral.
I remember your singing of Monteverdi at St Andrew’s Cathedral - together with two violinists, and also of the Dupre and Haydn's Insanae vanae et curae. But above all it was the mass at Bellahouston for the Holy Father, that I shall never forget. The warmth and companionship of that day will always remain with me.
Thank you for your friendship of my time with you – for all the music which you learned and sang to so many people. Warmest best wishes for the next 21 years - long may the Aberdeen Diocesan Chor thrive! With many congratulations and warmest best wishes to you all!
Similar messages of congratulations and good wishes have been received from Archbishop Mario Conti, Bishop Peter Moran, and man y other former members of the choir.
We also remember those who have helped the choir during periods in-between conductors, Shelagh Noden, and Chris Dyos.
I’m sure we all have many joyous memories, especially those who have been in the Choir for many years; whether it has been from singing in a tent at Deer Abbey, while simultaneously squelching in the mud, or more recently in a particular church that assured us it had a fine pipe organ (although it did hae the bellows taen ooot a whily ago)!
In preparing for today’s historical event, it has been quite revealing to visits the records of some of our earliest exploits as minuted by Peter Sims, our then secretary. He writes:
My first and abiding memory centres around the Silver Jubilee of Bishop Mario Conti ordination in 2002.
We practiced in the choir loft. It was an ordeal for all of us. The tenors and basses were terrified of falling to a holy death through the stain glass windows; the ladies looked like sardines squashed in a tin, straining their eyes in a poor light while being deafened by the organ!
David, (that’s me), had imported large screens to address he apparent vertigo, although the real reason that the screens were in place, was to prevent him from jumping after hearing us sing! As Peter said it wouldn’t really have mattered anyway, as we never watch the conductor during a performance ! Some things never change!
I would like to take a moment will share one of my abiding memories with you: In was in September 2009, when we had a marvellous tour to Paris, wonderfully organized by the then secretary Georgina Lahaye. Not only did we sing at the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral and the Scots Kirk there, we also visited the beautiful Basilica of Sacre Coeur. We had previously asked if we could sing there, but we were told that “no visiting choirs ever sing there” as the Benedictine Sisters of the Montmartre, had their own choir.
While touring round the Basilica , I found myself speaking to one of these sisters, telling her who we were and how disappointed we were not to be able to sing, especially as we were singing at Notre Dame Cathedral. She shrugged her shoulders and disappeared, but later in the tour returned and, to our great surprise, said ‘OK you can sing now! The choir were all spread out in this vast basilica unaware of this impromptu offer and with no music and at a time of silent prayer!
Somehow, we managed to get the word around that, exceptionally, we would be allowed to sing after all, and with no musical scores, we found ourselves singing a Sanctus from one of Schubert’s Masses unaccompanied, of course. Interrupting the holy silence , all the occupants of the basilica stopped and listed to our impromptu a cappella recital. On recovering from the shock, we sought out the same sister to thank her very much indeed. Now it was her time to show her disappointment! Once again, she shrugged her shoulders and said Hmm…. I thought you were going to be a youth choir! At which point one of our choir members,undaunted, learned forward and said ‘well sister, it has been rather a long journey’!
All of which shows that it is possible to serve the Church assiduously and imaginatively, whilst being able to share fun and friendship at the same time!
As the Choir now moves into a new phase of development, we give thanks for all the music and enjoyment we have shared together.
Finally, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Holy Mass, we are mindful that we are in a period of National Mourning. In remembering our wonderful late Queen, as well as our new King, we are confident that they would both approve of our celebration today in honouring our Creator, once more, in song. Thank you.