A charity formed in 2015 to foster cross-community relations and build friendships through the medium of music hosted one of three Carolfests in Belfast Cathedral on Thursday December 8.
Involving three local schools, the Carolfest in the Cathedral has been organised over the past number of years by the St Anne Trust, which this year expanded its annual programme, with schools’ Carol Services taking place in two additional venues.
The first was held in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, on Thursday December 1 in the presence of two Archbishops of Armagh, the Most Rev John McDowell (Church of Ireland) and the Most Rev Eamon Martin (Roman Catholic) who delivered a joint blessing. Participating primary schools were Hardy Memorial (Richill), Saints and Scholars Integrated and St Malachy’s, both Armagh.
The focus on Wednesday December 7 was the Parish of St Philip and St James, Holywood, when the choirs of Glencraig Integrated, Holywood Primary and St Patrick’s Primary all shared their wonderful talents in a well-attended service.
When Carolfest returned to Belfast Cathedral on December 8, the pupils of Jordanstown School, along with children from Cliftonville Integrated and Holy Cross Boys’ contributed to a truly festive service.
At all three services, teachers and parents representing the participating schools read the lessons and the congregations also enjoyed singing seasonal carols.
Patron of the St Anne Trust is Dame Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle DBE DStJ LL, who in a message to all those taking part wrote: “Music is a very special gift. It has the power to enhance, transform and heal and often it connects when words alone are not enough.
“As Patron of The St Anne Trust, I am passionate about the power of music and singing. With my fellow trustees, I believe that every child should have the opportunity to raise their voice and experience the transformative power of singing in a choir. The skills learnt therein will be skills learnt for life.”
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, welcomed the schools and their wider communities to Belfast Cathedral, describing the St Anne Trust Carolfest as one of the highlights of the Christmas season in St Anne’s.
“Music is always special, and the music of Christmas allows us to weave harmonies instead of discord, and to discover the importance of waiting at a silent pause, to enjoy all the more the magic of a shared carol,” said the Dean.
“In this way, the meaning of Christmas, and the singing of the angels, are made more real for each one of us who participates in this festival of carols.”