Mass-goers in two Auckland parishes were delighted to hear southern voices raised in song to praise the Lord at Masses on November 16 and 17.
Members of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (CBS) Choir and Orchestra from Christchurch assisted at a vigil Mass at St Michael’s church, Remuera, and at an 11am Solemn High Mass on Sunday, November 17, at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
“These tours are a great opportunity for our choir to spend social time together and experience the Church beyond our diocesan border,” said the choir’s bass section leader, Ken Joblin.
“It is even better when we can combine with the local musical forces and share our love of the Church’s sacred music,” he added.
At Remuera, under the direction of Christchurch Catholic Cathedral director of music Don Whelan, the CBS choir and orchestra were joined by members of the St Michael’s parish choir and together, they sang Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass” as the centrepiece of a very dignified liturgy.
The Mass began with the Introit “A Sound Came from Heaven” by the late Dr Douglas Mews, who was director of music at St Patrick’s Cathedral from 1969 to 1983.
While holding this position, he wrote this dramatic invocation of Pentecostal fire, based on Acts 2. Mr Joblin recalled the late Msgr Brian Arahill telling him that Dr Mews “often attended Mass at St Michael’s so
that he could really focus on our Lord before going on to the Cathedral to play for Mass and direct the choir”. The music of Mews featured in both Masses, with his composition “My Dwelling Place” forming the Gospel Acclamation. This work was commissioned by CBS in 1987, taking as its text the inscription on the Christchurch cathedral’s Barbadoes Street façade.
St John Henry Newman’s “Firmly I believe and Truly” and “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” framed the Mass and Sir James MacMillan’s “Hymn to the Blessed Sacrament” was offered by CBS at Communion.
“We chose the two famous Newman hymns to celebrate the very recent canonisation of St John Henry Newman by Pope Francis,” said Mr Whelan, “and offered the Hymn to the Blessed Sacrament in a contemporary setting of St Thomas Aquinas’ writing on the Eucharist, which we first sang under the direction of Sir James MacMillan in Glasgow four years ago and again when he came to Christchurch in 2017, so it is a special piece in our choral repertoire.”
At the conclusion of Mass, the two choirs joined in an hour-long free concert.
It began in the church’s west gallery, with the choirs singing five unaccompanied renaissance motets, a return to the sanctuary for a CBS bracket and concluded with the two choirs singing Mozart’s Ave Verum and the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The audience generously donated funds to assist the Community of the Beatitudes in Christchurch with the establishment of a new shrine at their retreat centre in Leithfield, “Our Lady of Fourviere”.
Members of both choirs then adjourned to a Parnell restaurant for convivium.
A similar programme was then offered at the St Patrick’s Cathedral High Mass. CBS was joined in the north transept by members of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir, where they were able to use the chamber organ which had been donated to the cathedral by Dr Mews in the 1970s.
At this Mass, the dean of the cathedral, Pa Peter Tipene, noted the proximity of the cathedral to Rydges Hotel, where the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care hearings are being held. He urged parishioners to support those who have suffered as a result of actions by members of the Catholic Church and prayed for healing. He also informed people that the parents of English tourist Grace Millane, who lost her life in Auckland a year ago, are faithful Catholics, that they appreciate the prayerful support of the Church and they had generously sent flowers to the cathedral in thanks for this.
A short concert followed, after the conclusion of Mass, before the touring musicians were ushered into Liston Hall for refreshments. Louisa Pilkington, CBS alto section leader, said “It was great to again sing in
beautiful historic Catholic churches with great acoustics. We’d love to take them home with us.”
At the homily at the Remuera Mass, parish priest Fr Tony Dunn preached on the imagery that the Church uses to remind people about the second coming of Jesus and how people should prepare.
“We know the outcome of the battle,” Fr Dunn said. “The victory has already been won, and even though leading up to the end of the world, as Jesus made very clear, there will be great suffering and persecutions,
. . . we have a hope that, in spite of all that, we know the victory, through the death and Resurrection of the Lord, has already been won.”
But intimations of the above can be seen in our time, the priest said.
“We are challenged by many in our society who adopt death-loving ideologies,” he said, noting close by an “. . . acolyte of Charon the Ferryman”, who is leading this anti-life charge. Remuera is in the Epsom electorate.
(In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman of Hades, and he carries the souls of the newly dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divide the world of the living from the world of the dead.)
“. . .[T]hey [people in society who promote anti-life ideologies] may love death,” Fr Dunn continued, “but we love life and the Lord of life and we look forward to his coming and eventual triumph because, in him, is our hope, and in him will be our peace.”
Fr Dunn advised people to have a mindset of “decluttering”, because “we are a people on pilgrimage”.
“We have not here a lasting city, our homeland is not here, but in heaven.”
“We are invited to focus on what brings us happiness, which is Jesus Christ and our attachment to him.
“And, in a sense, discarding the rest, which means becoming detached from anything or anybody which holds us back from him.”
Copy written by the Christchurch diocese Inform Editorial
Team was used in this story.