News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
On Christmas Day Archbishop Malcolm celebrated the 10.00 am Mass in the Crypt Chapel and each year some of the Children who regularly attend that Family Mass dress up as shepherds and angels etc and lead a procession to the Crypt Crib for the blessing and the placing of the baby Jesus in the manger.
This is normally done on Christmas Eve in the main Cathedral. I found out on Boxing Day that they were not able to find the Child Jesus and had to borrow a doll for the blessing with one parent offering to place their new-born child with their cot in the crib. From what I hear it certainly kept the congregation awake and gave the Archbishop extra material for his homily. As it turns out the real crib figure was waiting silently under the crib for his special moment which didn’t happen at the appointed time so we had to celebrate a local variable feast of the ‘finding of the baby Jesus under the crib’ a couple of days after Christmas.
It’s not often that the Feast of the Presentation falls on a Sunday so we will be making the most of this on 2 February with a procession and blessing of candles as we honour Christ ‘the light to enlighten all nations’. The references in the Gospel to Simeon and Anna offer an opportunity to give thanks and pray for the elderly members of our congregations. The following Sunday at 11.00 am, Archbishop Malcolm will celebrate the Annual Diocesan Mass in Support of Marriage and Family Life. The final Sunday before the start of Lent, 23 February, is the occasion for our Annual Civic Mass to which all the local mayors, civic dignitaries and those holding public office are invited to join us as we pray for our North West region and the needs of our communities.
Ash Wednesday falls on 26 February and March begins with the First Sunday of Lent Masses and the Rite of Election, of those to be received into communion with the church at Easter, at an afternoon service at 3.00 pm.
The life of a Cathedral Chorister
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is unique in the UK, and perhaps in the world, in the opportunities that it gives to Catholic school children in participating in the musical life of the Cathedral.
Each week around 70 children, boys and girls between 7-18 years of age participate in the daily round of choral services. The experience for these children is formative, in that they learn to live, breathe, hear and sing the Church's story - participating from the inside so to speak.
The time commitment given by these families (and having a chorister child affects your whole family) is considerable, but the benefits great.
Each morning, Tuesday to Friday the boy and girl choristers rehearse from 7.55 am until their first lesson in school. We are very fortunate that all our choristers attend one of our choir schools: Runnymede, St Edward’s School (Boys, 7-11) and St Edward’s College (Boys and Girls, 11-18.) The morning rehearsals take place in school, with the boys rehearsing in Runnymede and the girls in St Edward’s College. This morning rehearsal is incredibly important as it is where most of the learning takes place, practicing the music for the choral service later that day and for the coming days.
During the day there are various rehearsals and theory sessions that take place in school. Theory is all about learning the ‘nuts and bolts’ of music so that the choristers can put this into practice when singing. Each chorister also has an individual singing lesson each week where they are given guidance on how best to use their God given vocal instrument.
After school a coach transports the choristers down West Derby Road to the Cathedral. Many of the Anglican Cathedral choir schools in this country are literally in the shadows of their respective cathedrals - this is not the case for us. This does mean that the choristers need to be very careful to have the correct music with them in school for rehearsal and at the Cathedral for singing at Mass.
Upon arrival at the Cathedral the choristers will rehearse in preparation for the evening’s choral liturgy. Additionally, any soloists will take some time to prepare upcoming solos (eg, the cantor for the psalm.) At 5.00 pm there will usually be a short rehearsal with the choristers and Lay Clerks combined. The Lay Clerks are adult singers who sing the lower voice parts in the Cathedral choir. They are usually professional people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds who give their time and talent to enhance the musical life of the Cathedral.
After this rehearsal the choristers have a short break in their games room, which is equipped with seats, table tennis, desks for homework etc. They then put on their cassocks and surplices and line up ready for that evening's choral liturgy in the Cathedral. After the service they tidy up and head home at around 6.30 pm. Having started before 8.00 am in the morning this makes for a long and demanding day, however, the skills that the choristers learn on a daily basis prove invaluable to them in later life.
On a Sunday the routine is a little different in that there is no school commitment. Choristers will generally be in the Cathedral from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm on a Sunday. During that time they will have rehearsals, sing at the Solemn Mass and Choral Evening Prayer, have lunch and play football outside. They usually leave at the end of the day tired, but with a big smile on their face.
A chorister’s life is a busy one, and includes being at the Cathedral during Holy Week and Christmas when their peers will be relaxing. The contribution they make to the musical life of the Cathedral is considerable, but equally the skills, knowledge and experience gained from their time as a chorister are things that benefit them throughout their life.