Another first for St Polycarp’s choir as it leads worship in Truro Cathedral
By Clifford Skillen
The choir of St Polycarp’s Church, Parish of Finaghy, Belfast, Diocese of Connor, marked its ninth annual summer tour by visiting Truro Cathedral, Cornwall, for the first time, singing Choral Evensong on Wednesday 31st July, Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd August.
Last year’s tour also broke new ground, when members paid their first visit to Portsmouth Cathedral, and in previous years they have visited Westminster Abbey three times, as well as the chapels of three Cambridge Colleges, Chester Cathedral and both Dublin Cathedrals, St Patrick’s and Christ Church.
Gothic cathedral in the heart of the city
Truro Cathedral, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is located right in the heart of Cornwall’s only city – the eighth least–populous city in the United Kingdom – and dominates the city’s skyline.
The cathedral was built between 1880 and 1910 for the newly–created diocese of Cornwall in a Gothic Revival architectural style designed by John Loughborough Pearson.
That Pearson was heavily influenced by Gothic architecture is indicated by the cathedral’s three massive towers and spires, and it is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom with three spires, the other two being Lichfield Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.
One unusual feature of Truro Cathedral is the non–alignment of its nave and chancel, which can be clearly seen by visitors at the west or east end of the building. This was apparently due to site constraints: the cathedral stands in the city’s central square amid a warren of compact streets, with houses and shops packed closely about on all sides, in a manner more reminiscent of a continental rather than an English cathedral.
‘Excellent standard of music’
Conducted by St Polycarp’s Director of Music, Simon Neill, the choir sang the canticles on successive evenings to the settings Harwood in A flat, St Polycarp Evening Canticles by Philip Stopford and Dyson in D.
The choir also sang three anthems, successively Greater love hath no man by John Ireland; In my Father’s house by Philip Stopford; and Haydn’s Insanae et vanae curae (‘Frantic and futile anxieties invade our minds’) from his first oratorio, ‘The Return of Tobias’.
The hymns over the three evenings were Rejoice, the Lord is King; Thine forever, God of love; and Praise, my soul, the King of heaven.
The guest organist was David Stevens, Organist and Master of the Choristers of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, who in September will take up a new post as part of the music staff of Wells Cathedral.
Coincidentally, Wells Cathedral’s present Director of Music, Matthew Owens, will move to St Anne’s to succeed David Stevens.
The New Testament lessons at the first two services were read by the Revd Louise Stewart, rector of Finaghy and Upper Malone.
Choir members were supported, as on previous tours, by a number of spouses and friends, with two past members now living and working in Manchester and London respectively travelling south especially to meet and sing again with their former colleagues.
Following the final Evensong of the tour, members and friends were invited to a reception hosted by the Cathedral’s Precentor, Canon Simon Griffiths.
Canon Griffiths said that it had been a great delight to welcome St Polycarp’s choir and friends, adding that “the standard of music was excellent and choir members did St Polycarp’s and the Church of Ireland proud”.
He joked that with an Irish choir, a Welsh Precentor and a Cornish cathedral, there was a “definite Celtic connection” to the visit.
Whilst the weather was occasionally not as favourable as on previous trips, choir members and friends were still able to enjoy some free time to explore the city and the surrounding area, including a boat trip down the River Fal from Truro to Falmouth and visits to St Austell and the nearby National Trust’s Trelissick Gardens and House.
Reflecting on the tour, Mr Neill said that it was “unbelievable to think we have just returned from our ninth annual summer tour, this time to the wonderful, picturesque surroundings of Truro Cathedral.
“The choir not only sang some spectacular music but also enjoyed much socialising, which showcased the great family ties we all have together.
“Each member gives freely of their time and finances to make our tours a reality and this year was another triumphant success.
“We are very much looking forward to celebrating our tenth year of tours when we will sing in the historic grandeur of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 27th and 28th July next year.”
Find out more about St Polycarp’s Choir in the September issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette, when it features in a new Gazette column ‘Choir Call.’