This past week the first of the two candidates for the post of music director took the choir for practice on Thursday. The second candidate is taking practice this Thursday, 25th June. While it’s not appropriate, while the recruitment process is ongoing, to comment on how practice went, what can be said is that we are very lucky with the calibre of the people organising the job search.
The recruitment panel overseeing the process comprises of Anne French, who is also the chair of the choir, Kathy Perreau, who is a musician with the 5 pm Mass, and Fr Peter McAfee. Following the interviews and practice sessions, and with feedback from the choir, they will give their recommendations to the parish priest, with whom rests the decision to appoint music director. We are very lucky to have these people working so hard for the future of the choir, and throughout this process, it is clear that the choir is very important to the wider parish.
When the post of music director was advertised, no one could have foreseen the difficulties that have arisen. What was initially seen as a fairly straightforward process turned into a very complex one, as we went into, and then out of, Covid-19 lockdown. Deadlines and dates were repeatedly shifted as the committee attempted to keep the process moving while estimating future possibilities. Eventually, the candidate interviews had to be conducted over Zoom. Not all the candidates were familiar with this technology, so some practice sessions had to be arranged. As the process reaches its conclusion (God willing), it is becoming clear to the rest of us how much effort has gone into this process.
One hopeful sign to come out of last week’s practice was that Fr Peter, who was at practice as a recruitment panel member, sat in and sang for one of the pieces. He made noises that he’s thinking of re-joining the choir. He was a member during his university days which, he claims, were thirty years ago. Until quite recently, it was considered very important for priests to have good singing voices, to the extent that the inability or unwillingness to sing was a hindrance to becoming a priest. As anyone can attest who has heard Fr Peter offer Mass, his singing brings an added dimension to the liturgy. It seems he might be feeling the twitch upon the thread. We would love to have him back in the choir.
Among the pieces we sang last week were Sicut Cervus, and the Agnus Dei from Missa Aeterna Christ Munera – both by Palestrina. One of the challenges and joys of singing in this choir is that we are faced with a constantly changing repertoire. Unusually, for us, we will repeat these pieces this week, so as to give both the candidates a fair chance.
At the choir workshop in February, Fr Kevin Mowbray, who had just become parish priest, spoke about how important he saw the choir to be, both to the parish of St Mary of the Angels, and to Wellington generally. We’re very lucky to be able to sing this music, and to have a parish which values this music.
It is our constant struggle, and joy, to do justice both to the music and to the faith in the choir shown by the parish.