Report by Angela Kerr
The Down, Dromore & Connor Organ Scholarship Choral Evensong was held in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Sunday September 19.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, who has recently been appointed to the Board of Management of the Organ Scholarship Scheme. Lessons were read by the Rev Canon David Humphreys, Honorary Secretary to the Board, and Dr Judith Harper, also a Board member.
The Rt Rev George Davison, Bishop of Connor, was the preacher. He began his sermon saying: “Where there is devotional music, God is always there with his gracious presence. Music has always been at the heart of worship.”
The bishop said that it was a time to give thanks and to celebrate, adding that it was important to acknowledge the talents God has given the scholars to make music and also to thank the tutors for putting so much effort into teaching them.
Dean Forde and Chancellor John Auchmuty, Chairman of the Board and rector of St Columba’s, Knock, presented the certificates to those scholars who have completed the three-year course, Chancellor Auchmuty congratulating them for demonstrating great commitment and resilience during the past 18 months of the pandemic.
He said this was the successful conclusion of their journey on the Organ Scholarship Scheme, but more importantly, it marked the beginning of a new exciting opportunity for each of them. Chancellor Auchmuty thanked the tutors Dr Joe McKee, St Columba’s, Knock; Michael McCracken, Down Cathedral; and the Rev Dr Ian Mills, who is now residing in England, for their tremendous teaching and ongoing support to each of the scholars.
Organ Scholars who received certificates are:
Chancellor Auchmuty thanked Matthew Owens, Director of Music at St Anne’s, and the Cathedral Choir for the beautiful music at Choral Evensong, and Bishop George for his helpful and supportive sermon, recognising the gifts of others in enhancing worship through music.
Due to the pandemic, no year one scholars were selected, but the work for those already on the scheme will continue. They are David Dunlop, All Saints’, Belfast; Clare Kelly, ALCM, St Patrick’s, Jordanstown; Sean Turner, St Patrick’s, Ballymoney; Tanya Zachara, St Mark’s, Dundela; Larissa Fleck, St Patrick’s, Armoy; Dr Mark McKinty, St Cedma’s, Larne; Hannah Shaw , St Cedma’s, Larne; and Grace Steed, St Mark’s, Dundela.
The Anglican Church music tradition is arguably the finest in the world, with choirs and organists providing music of an exceptionally high standard to enhance the liturgy, but there is always a need to train more young organists who can ensure its future.
The benefits of music study are well known. The study of music fosters concentration, discipline and confidence. Music-making in itself promotes good mental health, feelings of self-esteem and the knowledge that something of beauty and value is being contributed to our cathedrals and parishes.
The primary benefit of using the pipe organ in worship is the dynamic range and colour that one can get from the instrument. From the softest whispers to the grandest fortes, the organ is the only instrument that is capable of producing the sheer scale of volume that is needed to not only lead a congregation in singing but also to provide accompaniment for choir or soloist and then to stand alone and perform its own solo repertoire.
The organ is an instrument that when played correctly can invoke not only a range of emotions, such as joy at a wedding and sombreness at a funeral, but can help weave the portions of Church of Ireland Liturgy together seamlessly.