Music at St Mary’s

For a number of different reasons, I find myself reflecting on the musical tradition that I find myself in the middle of at St Mary’s. It obviously matters to people and it obviously matters to me, but what is it?

It isn’t the pure English Cathedral choral tradition though it has been deeply nourished from that source. Our repertoire is much more eclectic than you will find in places which more firmly belong under that glorious banner. We also regularly embrace instumentation which you wouldn’t normally find in that tradition. Fancy an oboe obligato or a couple of intertwining flutes? You’ll find them here.

It isn’t band-led worship of the Evangelical megachurch though we are not afraid of raiding that repertoire.

It isn’t the organ-dominated French liturgy, nor a collection of organ-led Lutheran chorales. Yet our organists are worship-leaders and magic-makers. The congregation likes to be taken on a journey in our hymnody and they like to know that there is an emotional heartbeat to inform the rhythm of faith at least as much as as the time signature on the page.

It isn’t the sound of Celtic slush yet it belongs to this Scottish place. We worship by a busy road in a complex, large, troubled yet glorious city. We worship surrounded by Mungo, Columba and our blessed Lady, under whose banner and name we are gathered. Should we ever flag or weary they aid us in raising our songs of praise.

It isn’t well funded and is vulnerable to time and circumstance. It depends entirely on good humour and good will. To borrow the Primus’s recent observation, it is just one of the ministries of the  Scottish Episcopal Church that is firmly in the loaves and fishes business.

It isn’t motivated by musical sound alone. People are sometimes surprised to find that the driving force is a set of ideas and propositions, statements and intentions that take flight on the wings of words.

St Mary’s is a place where mystery and music meet with a kiss and above all, it’s never dull.