St Mary of the Angels Choir

St Mary of the Angels Choir is a non-audition choral choir that sings at St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Wellington, New Zealand. We sing Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony for the Mass, for other liturgies and events at the church, and occasionally for other community events.

We are always looking for new members for the choir – the only qualification is a desire to sing. In age, our current membership ranges from 15 – 75. In experience, we have members with professional singing training, with academic music backgrounds, and with decades-long experience in choirs; we also have members with no singing experience and no musical background. Whatever your experience, you will find a supportive environment of friendly people who want to help each other to succeed.

There has been a choir at St. Mary of the Angels since 1843, thus beginning one of the longest musical traditions in Wellington.

The choir earned an international reputation under the leadership of Maxwell Fernie, Director of Music for 40 years from the late 1950’s. Until recently, the choir was led by Robert Oliver, who was appointed Choir Director in 1999, and Director of Music in 2004. Robert retired in mid-2020, and has been replaced by William McElwee.

The choir is well-known for its singing of Medieval Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other beautiful liturgical music. Most of our repertoire is in Latin, with Gregorian chant and late 16th-century polyphony by Palestrina and Victoria at the heart of it.

The choir also sings music by Bach, Tallis, Handel, Monteverdi, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Bruckner, Poulenc, and John Tavener, including works in English, French, Italian and German.

The choir sings at 11am Mass every Sunday from February to December.

At Mass on Sundays we sing the Gregorian chants for that week’s Introit, responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and Communion. We lead the congregation in the singing of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, and sing three or four polyphonic works from our repertoire chosen for their suitability to the day.

In addition, we sing at extra liturgical events during Holy Week and around Christmas, at Vespers for certain Feast days, and join with other inner-city church choirs for special events.

We also take part in concerts and other events outside the church. These have included a Midwinter Festival of Song, the Medieval-themed Feast of Fools, and the Elizabethan-themed Queen’s Revels.

In recent years the choir has produced CDs, and performed in concerts including singing the Gregorian chant for a recent performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers.

The choir currently has more than thirty active members, with ages ranging from students in their 20’s to veterans several decades older. There are many different occupations and ethnicities represented in our membership. We include both Catholics and non-Catholics.

There is no audition required for entry to the choir. The only qualification is a love of music and singing. Anyone who is interested is invited to come to a Thursday evening practice to discover whether singing with this choir is right for them.

The choir practises for two hours from 7.30 on Thursday evenings, and again for 30 minutes before Mass on Sunday.

There is also a voluntary extra practice on Friday evenings for those who wish to develop their music-reading and singing skills.

Choir members are expected to attend practices, sing at Mass on Sundays, and participate in other events throughout the year.

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