Monday, February 1, 2010

The Palestrina Choir

I would like to be like Ebenezer Scrooge after his transformation. Dickens said of Scrooge, “he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge”. I would like to keep it well too, and keep it all year long.

And that’s my excuse this time for plugging another Christmas CD.

Tonight I’m listening to Christmas with The Palestrina Choir. They are, for some reason, the only Irish choir whose album I have. The Palestrina Choir is from Dublin and from the pictures I have to say they are about the cutest choir I’ve ever seen with their big smiles and blue cassocks.

This CD has twenty-five carols and even though many of them are standard Christmas fare they are done with unique arrangements that make them refreshingly different. I Saw Ships is really nice and original.

It’s always fun for me to hear songs sung in Irish and there are some here. Traditional Irish songs like Suantrai na Maighdine (The Virgin Mary’s Lullaby) and Oiche Nollag (Christmas Night) and a few others. I’m glad they included the translations of the titles and lyrics in the CD booklet. It’s fun to read along.

They have a charming soloist named Christopher Graham, who was 13 and had been with the choir for 7 years when the CD was recorded in 2008.
For music they have David Grealy on the organ and Andreja Malir playing the harp. It’s all very beautiful.

I haven’t found anything about the name of the choir but I assume that they take it from the composer Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina whose sacred works had such an influence on Catholic church music.

The choir is from Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral and that term confused me. I finally found out that it just means “acting” cathedral. It seems that Dublin has two cathedrals but neither is Catholic, both are Church of Ireland.
I’m still not clear on all of it but it doesn’t matter to me. The music is what I care about and this music is great. I’m going to try and get their other CD The Bells Of the Angelus.

One little bit of humor that I noticed on the album cover is that there is a robin sitting atop the word Christmas and he’s all puffed up to sing. He doesn’t see the snowball that the artist has drawn flying straight at him. Those boys.


  1. Me again.

    I've just taken delivery of a CD you mentioned (and recommended) some time back - Light of the World by The Abbey Choir, Tewkesbury.

    In fact, I'm off to listen to it right now!

  2. For over a century the home of Ireland's renowned Palestrina Choir, Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral serves as the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. Saint Mary’s was constituted in 1825 from Saint Mary’s Chapel Liffey Street, whose pre-Reformation monastic antecedent was the great Benedictine, and later Cistercian Abbey of Saint Mary’s founded in the twelfth century. The present church is built on a site which was part of the ancient monastic foundation. The church was dedicated on 14th November 1825, the Feast of Saint Laurence O’Toole, Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of Dublin under the patronage of the ‘Conception of the Virgin.’

    As the Parish Church of the people of the Pro-Cathedral parish, Saint Mary’s continues to be primarily a place of worship where God’s Pilgrim People are nourished daily in the celebration of the Eucharist. The church is open throughout the week for the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments and for both public and private prayer and devotions.

    Visit the website of Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral.

  3. Hi Andy. Be sure to let me know what you think of that CD. I'm really curious.

    P.s. Don't be confused if you see the name George Saint at the bottom of these posts. I started a new blog under a different pen name and I'm having trouble getting them separated.

  4. The "pro-cathedral" designation stems from the reformation. From the wikipedia entry for the Pro-Cathederal:

    "The city of Dublin possesses two cathedrals, but unusually, both belong to one faith, the minority Church of Ireland, which up until 1871 had been the established religion in Ireland. In contrast, the majority religion in Ireland, Roman Catholicism, has no cathedral in Ireland's capital city and has not had one since the Reformation, when Protestant Christians in Ireland broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestants established the Church of Ireland which became the state church in 1536 by act of Parliament. As the official church, the Church of Ireland took control of most church property, including the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (generally known as Christchurch) and St. Patrick's Cathedral. These two churches had long shared the role of cathedral of Dublin, controversially at first, then under an agreement of 1300, Pacis Compositio, which gave Christchurch formal precedence, including the right to enthrone the Archbishop and to hold his cross, mitre and ring after death, but with deceased Archbishops of Dublin to be buried alternately in each of the two cathedrals, unless they personally willed otherwise, and the two cathedrals to act as one, and "shared equally in their freedoms".

    "Even though Christchurch has been the property of the Anglican church for nearly five hundred years it is still viewed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope as the primary official Dublin cathedral since it was so designated by the pope at the request of the then Archbishop of Dublin, St. Laurence O'Toole in the 12th century. Until the pope either formally revokes Christchurch's designation (which, given its longterm status as the official Anglican cathedral in Dublin, and its historic symbolism for Dubliners, is unlikely), or grants cathedral status to another church (which is much more likely), the main Roman Catholic church in Dublin will continue to be the 'pro-cathedral'[1] (meaning in effect acting cathedral), a title officially given to St Mary's Church in 1886, though it used that title unofficially since the 1820s."

  5. Thanks bb55ct, the confusing thing there is that they don't mention St Mary's until the last line.
    They talk about St Patrick's and say that Christchurch is the primary cathedral but then they turn around and say that St Mary's is the "main Roman Catholic church". I keep missing something there.
    I'm on a serious diet and sort of faint from hunger so maybe I'm not thinking clearly.
    Thanks again.

  6. Morning Larry, hope you are not in trouble because of all the snow you guys are getting over in the States - not quite sure where you are located....

    Well, Light of the World, Tewkesbury Abbey. I really like it. A lot. Does Andrew sing all the solo parts? Much prefer it to Songs of Innocence - that just passes me by completely. Not so much Mr Swait, I just don't care for the songs or the rather creepy sound of a counter-tenor!

    I also picked up Anthony Way's the Choirboy and that is growing on me, Just waiting for my James Rainbird CD to show up now.

  7. Hi Andy, good evening to you. So far I'm snow-free, thanks. I've been working a lot of overtime this week and even had to put in 14 hours at the office yesterday so I'm running late with my next post. Maybe tomorrow.

    I know just what you mean about the type of songs on Songs of Innocence and that counter-tenor's voice. I thought it was a woman at first. After a few listens it didn't seem so weird, though.
    I'm worried that you may not like the songs on the Rainbird CD. They're not the usual ones. It's an odd mix but his voice is strong and clear and really pretty. Do you have his version of Suo Gan?

  8. Larry, I had the vinyl version of the sound track to Empire of the Sun and I bought it because I loved Suo Gan (Wish I knew what I'd done with that record........) - is there a version on his album?

    If there is then the rest of the tracks wont matter - that one song, if it is like the version from the film, would be worth 10 times the price. I must say that Anthony Ways version of Suo Gan was disappointing.

    One track I do like on Songs of Innocence is The Slow Train - and I have no idea why!!!!

  9. Hi Larry.

    Just looked up the track listing for the James Rainbird album and no Suo Gan :(

    So, I thought 'bugger it' and went to Amazon and bought the movie soundtrack on CD :)

    The best version of Suo Gan will be mine to play whenever I want it!

  10. I agree with you completely, Andy. Rainbird's version of Suo Gan is the best I've ever heard.
    Did you see the movie? When he sings it in the prison camp it made me cry.

  11. I sure did Larry - I love that film :) - I think it was your post a few weeks ago that prompted me to but it again on DVD and now I have the CD. Are you on commission from Amazon?

    Not sure why it is so under rated as a film; I can only suppose that it being heavily British was a turn off for most people......?