by INFORM Editorial Team

November 22 is the feast of St Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. On the morning of the feast day this year, some 325 students from 17 Catholic schools converged on St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Christchurch for Jubilate 2018, the Catholic primary schools music festival. This is the third year of Jubilate and the first at which Bishop Paul Martin, SM, was present.

In his opening remarks, the bishop set the scene. “It’s a special feature of our diocese to hold this annual Jubilate. We are the only Catholic diocese in New Zealand to bring our schools together in this way each year. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to sing some of the musical treasures of our Church. The music you sing today is of such high quality, that it will be with you throughout your lives. You will not get tired of it or grow out of it. As you reach milestones in your lives such as weddings, funerals and important commemorations, these songs will fit the occasion brilliantly. The Church teaches that music is of value beyond our imaginations and that its value is higher than any other art. So our Church music is of real importance and its beauty matters. Sacred music is among the best ways we can glimpse heaven and when we sing to God, our voices unite with those of the saints, the whole company of heaven.”

Jubilate 2018 called into hearts the life and prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who loved God’s creation. The combined voices of Jubilate 2018 joyfully sang about the beauty of creation: the earth, the elements, the cosmos and of the human person. The hour-long programme drew from the tradition of the Church and more recent compositions, all of which have a timeless quality. Along with English, students sang in Latin to highlight the universality of the Church and in Te reo Maori, Samoan and Tagalog, reflecting the place of Aotearoa in the Asia Pacific region. Sacred Heart, Addington and St Mary’s, Manchester Street, combined in a modern setting of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” by John Rutter. Addington demonstrated particular skill in singing Rutter’s two-part setting of “For the Beauty of the Earth”.

Before a rousing rendition of Richard Puanaki’s Ka Waiata, diocesan general manager Andy Doherty said that “Hearing you sing with such joy and enthusiasm and in such numbers is a highlight of my year. It’s really good to see so many of our schools represented by you today and to see the value your schools are placing on Jubilate. Four of our South Canterbury schools took part in their own Jubilate in October and Greymouth hosted Jubilate West Coast earlier this month. I’m really pleased to see the happiness which comes from Jubilate.”

Mr Doherty went on to thank those schools who travelled quite a distance to join Jubilate, especially St Patrick’s Greymouth, North Canterbury schools and St Joseph’s, Ashburton. He concluded that “Almost all of you know Ken Joblin, our sacred music advisor. He and his guide dog Nelson visited you all in the weeks leading up to today and we are proud of his work.”

Principal of St James School, Aranui, said that Jubilate 2018 was “a well organised, beautiful ceremony. Our children certainly enjoyed their morning. It was a privilege to hear them singing like angels!”

The same programme was offered at St Patrick’s, Waimate in October for South Canterbury. Angela Marshall, principal of St Joseph’s, Fairlie said the highlights for her students included “working with students from other Catholic schools, being able to sing in a basilica, listening to the organ!!”

Debbie Plant, director of Religious Studies at Sacred Heart School, Timaru said that “The children valued the range of songs; as we got into our rehearsals it was really interesting to hear them discussing which songs were their favourites!”

Bishop Martin is giving thought as to how this unique sacred music highlight that is Jubilate can be shared with a wider audience. His concluding prayer was: “My hope for you is that the words you sing will touch your heart, that God whom you are singing to and praising will be really, really important in your lives. As your bishop, that’s my prayer for you, for your families and for all of us, that we will know and love God all the days of our lives.”

In response, the children sang the Canticle of Daniel, “All you works of God, raise up your joyful song.”