Church Music in Ireland
When perusing old Irish Catholic newspapers and archives from before Vatican II, one thing that always strikes me is the constant and industrious efforts made by Irish clerical musicians, and even secular musical organizations (eg. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann), to promote and improve the standard of Sacred Music, particularly among schoolchildren. I’m beginning to suspect that the established narrative of this subject that prevails on the Catholic blogosphere has little (if any) basis in the historical reality. For example, yesterday I was checking out the notices for the months April, May and June in the 1939 Irish Catholic Directory and took note of some of them:
April 26 — Over 2,000 schoolchildren took part in the Liturgical Festival of the Archdiocese of Tuam held to-day. The Festival, which is under the patronage of Most. Rev. Dr. Gilmartin, Archbishop of Tuam, and Most Rev. Dr. Walsh, Bishop of Cela, was held for the first time last year with the idea of bringing Tuam into line with the Liturgical Movement inaugurated by Pope Pius X.
Eighty two choirs, nearly 30 more than last year, took part in the Plain Chant examinations, which were held in five halls.
The competitive element has been completely eliminated from the examination. There are no cups or prizes, as the promoters feel that this is the best means of restoring the Chant among the people.
The Festival opened with Pontifical High Mass, celebrated in the Cathedral by the Bishop of Cela, and at which the Archbishop presided. The singing, in which all the children took part, under Rev. J.G. McGarry, D.D. [see here – shane], was particularly impressive. Mr. Philip Dore, M.A., B.Mus., F.R.C.O., presided at the organ.
The adjudicators were Rev. J. Fennelly, C.C., Donnybrook, Dublin [see here – shane]; Rev. Patrick Mallon, C.C., Monaghan; Rev. J. Delaney, C.C., Gloucester Street, Dublin; Rev. C. Sherin, Kilkenny, and Mr. Dore.
Following the examination, his Grace the Archbishop presented certificates of merit to each choir.
May 3— Three thousand school-children took part in the Liturgical Festival of the Diocese of Meath, which was held in the Cathedral, Mullingar, to-day. Practically every school in the diocese was represented.
May 18 — Sixty choirs, comprising over 1,500 children, took part in the Liturgical Festival which was held at St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, to-day.
May 20 — About 1,500 children, drawn from every part of the diocese, sang at the High Mass at Cavan Cathedral to-day at the opening of the Kilmore Diocesan Liturgical Festival.
June 3 — The Liturgical Festival was opened in Limerick to-day, when a choir of almost 3,000 children sang at Solemn High Mass in St. John’s Cathedral. Sixty choirs took part in the Festival tests. Certificates were awarded to all choirs which attained a standard of efficiency according to their grade.
June 5 — The annual competition of the Bishop’s Shield for Gregorian Chant was held in Kilkenny to-day. Seven choirs, comprising some hundreds of children, competed for it.
Most Rev. Dr. Collier, who presided, presented the Shield to the winners, St. Mary’s Cathedral Scola Cantorum, Kilkenny, who were conducted by Herr J.A. Koss, and congratulated the choir and the conductor on their success.
Rev. C.J. Sherin, Diocesan Director of Sacred Music, addressing the competitors, said it was a source of much pleasure to him to note that Gregorian Chant in the diocese had in a few years made such progress as they had witnessed.