by JOHN FONG
The pipe organ has long been the traditional musical instrument to accompany liturgical music in the Latin Church.
The Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) states: “In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendour to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things” (120).
The Sacred Congregation of Rites states in its Musicam Sacram (Instruction on Music in the Liturgy): “By sacred music it is understood that which, being created for the celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a holy sincerity of form.”
The organ’s unique characteristics are ideally suited to accompany the human voice.
The tradition of organ accompaniment continues at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton with two young organists in training there.
Tara Fernandez-Ritchie is the cathedral’s current organ scholar. She is the accompanist on the piano and organ for the cathedral choir and her appointment was featured in an article in the NZ Catholic, February 12, 2015.
At age 11, she began to learn the piano and at 16, she turned her attention to the organ.
In 2014, she was dux of Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Hamilton and received a University of Waikato Golden Jubilee Scholarship. She is in her fourth year at the University of Waikato studying towards a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree.
The second young organist is Joseph Dean. At the age of 8, he began to learn to play the piano and took up the organ two years ago. He has not decided on
the course he will take at university although his favourite subjects are physics and mathematics.
Ephraim Wilson is a past organ scholar at the cathedral. He was the accompanist on the piano and organ for the cathedral choir.
However, after his secondary schooling, he left to study law at the University of Victoria in Wellington.
While there, in addition to his studies, he continued to be involved in music and has been the general musical assistant and student for Douglas Mews, Jnr, organist for the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel, St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in Kelburn, assistant organist at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and of Saint Mary His Mother (commonly known as Sacred Heart Cathedral), understudy organist for the Bach Choir of Wellington, organist at the NZSO National Youth Orchestra,and organist at St Francis de Sales church.
After completing his LLB degree, Ephraim returned to Hamilton in July last year and rejoined the cathedral parish and the organ music team.
Tara, Joseph and Ephraim were taught the organ by Sr Colleen Morey, RNDM, of the cathedral.
Sr Colleen had attended the University of Auckland and graduated with a BMus in 1971 which was followed by an MMus with first class honours.
While she was studying for her music degree, Dr Douglas Mews, Snr, taught her the pipe organ utilising various Auckland venues, but mainly at Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Thereafter, she continued to live in Auckland and in other districts before moving to Hamilton in 1986 when she joined the cathedral parish.
To showcase the musical talents of Tara and Joseph, a “Young Organists’ Concert” was held on November 26 at the cathedral. Ephraim was invited to participate in the programme.
When the cathedral was redeveloped in 2008, the old electronic organ was disposed of and a new Allen Quantum Q405C electronic organ was purchased. It boasts four manuals and uses a digital processing technology called “the convolution reverb”. In the implementation of this technique, the acoustics of the cathedral became an integral part of the organ’s sound. The reverberation of the cathedral’s physical or virtual space is digitally simulated.