St Polycarp’s Choir leads worship in Truro Cathedral

Friday August 16th 2019

The choir of St Polycarp’s, Finaghy, is pictured in Truro Cathedral following the final Evensong of their recent tour. Pictured (middle row) are the choir’s Director of Music, Simon Neill (extreme left), David Stephens, guest organist (centre), and the Rev Louise Stewart, rector of Finaghy and Upper Malone (extreme right).

By Clifford Skillen

The choir of St Polycarp’s Church, Parish of Finaghy, Belfast, paid its first visit to Truro Cathedral, Cornwall, for its ninth annual summer tour.

The choir sang Choral Evensong on July 31 and August 1 and 2.

Previous tours have included Portsmouth Cathedral, Westminster Abbey (three times!), the chapels of three Cambridge Colleges, Chester Cathedral and both Dublin Cathedrals, St Patrick’s and Christ Church.

Truro Cathedral, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is located right in the heart of Cornwall’s only city and dominates the city’s skyline. The cathedral was built between 1880 and 1910 for the newly-created diocese of Cornwall in a Gothic Revival architectural style designed by John Loughborough Pearson.

Truro is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom with three spires, the other two being Lichfield Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. Another unusual feature of Truro Cathedral is the non-alignment of its nave and chancel, which can be clearly seen by visitors at the west or east end of the building.


Conducted by St Polycarp’s Director of Music, Simon Neill, the choir sang the canticles on successive evenings to the settings Harwood in A flat, St Polycarp Evening Canticles by Philip Stopford and Dyson in D. 

The choir also sang three anthems, successively Greater love hath no man by John Ireland; In my Father’s house by Philip Stopford; and Haydn’s Insanae et vanae curae (‘Frantic and futile anxieties invade our minds’) from his first oratorio, ‘The Return of Tobias.’

The hymns over the three evenings were Rejoice, the Lord is King; Thine forever, God of love; and Praise, my soul, the King of heaven.

The guest organist was David Stevens, Organist and Master of the Choristers of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, who takes up a new post as part of the music staff of Wells Cathedral in September.

The New Testament lessons at the first two services were read by the Rev Louise Stewart, rector of Finaghy and Upper Malone.


Choir members were supported, as on previous tours, by a number of spouses and friends, with two past members now living and working in Manchester and London respectively travelling south especially to meet and sing again with their former colleagues.

Following the final Evensong of the tour, members and friends were invited to a reception hosted by the Cathedral’s Precentor, Canon Simon Griffiths.

Canon Griffiths said that it had been a great delight to welcome St Polycarp’s choir and friends, adding that ‘the standard of music was excellent and choir members did St Polycarp’s and the Church of Ireland proud.’

He joked that with an Irish choir, a Welsh Precentor and a Cornish cathedral, there was a ‘definite Celtic connection’ to the visit.  


Choir members and friends were able to enjoy some free time to explore the city and the surrounding area, including a boat trip down the River Fal from Truro to Falmouth and visits to St Austell and the nearby National Trust’s Trelissick Gardens and House.

Reflecting on the tour, Simon Neill said: “The choir not only sang some spectacular music but also enjoyed much socialising, which showcased the great family ties we all have together.  

“Each member gives freely of their time and finances to make our tours a reality and this year was another triumphant success.  

“We are very much looking forward to celebrating our 10th year of tours when we will sing in the historic grandeur of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on July 27 and 28 next year.”

  • Find out more about St Polycarp’s Choir in the September issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette, when it features in a new Gazette column ‘Choir Call.’

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