Musical re-telling of the Passion Story at Belfast Cathedral

Monday April 25th 2022

Lord Lieutenant, Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, chats with soloists Thomas Elwin (Hereford), Malachy Frame (London) and Philip Gault (Glasgow).

Holy Week at Belfast Cathedral saw the re-telling of the passion story through An English Passion according to St Matthew by Philip Wilby on Palm Sunday.

The Cathedral Choir, the Children’s Choir and the beginners in Songbirds were joined by five visiting soloists along with Jack Wilson, organ, and Tristan Russcher, chamber organ, under the direction of Matthew Owens, Director of Music, who had previously commissioned the work.

The large congregation also joined in hymns, the themes of which were then subtly incorporated into the music that followed as the soprano Mhairi Lawson (London), alto Margaret Bridge (Dublin) and the Choir unfolded the Passion account in a modern translation, whilst the other soloists took the parts of various characters in the story.

Many of the congregation spoke of the excellent music having an enormous impact upon them at the beginning of Holy Week.

The composer of this St Matthew Passion, Philip Wilby, was present on Palm Sunday and said how impressed he had been with the standard of singing, playing and directing of his music.

The Lord Lieutenant for Belfast, Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, said: “I found the whole experience very moving and on behalf of the city of Belfast I want to thank the singers, organists and especially the Director of Music, Matthew Owens, for what they are contributing to the city.”

The world premiere CD recording of this work sung by the Cathedral Choir, soloists and organists is now available in the Cathedral.

Composer Philip Wilby talks with some members of the Children’s Choir and Songbirds about writing music on computers.

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