Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mendelssohn in Melbourne, and Byrd too

Melbourne boasts one of the finest church buildings in Australia - William Wardell's splendid bluestone Cathedral of St. Patrick, in the Gothic Revival style.  See here for a history of the Cathedral. 

The Cathedral is also home to an excellent choir, the existence of which is largely due to happenstance.  According to the National Museum of Australia, the Vienna Mozart Boys Choir had been touring the United States, the Pacific and Australia from December 1938 to September 1939. 
They became stranded in Perth [Western Australia] when the ship on which they were to return to Austria was requisitioned.  Germany had just invaded Poland and Australia had entered the Second World War.  Dr Daniel Mannix, then the Archbishop of Melbourne [Victoria], offered that his parishioners would provide foster care in return for the boys forming a choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.  The boys soon started school and attempted to learn English … Remaining in Australia … likely saved their lives, as they came of age during the war and would have been conscripted into the German army.  Only one returned to live in Vienna after the war. 
Even today the Choir’s roots in the German choral tradition are evident.  At the 11am Solemn Mass for the fifth Sunday of Lent the choir sang Mendelssohn’s Richte mich Gott

They also sang the Kyrie and Agnus Dei from Byrd’s Mass for five voices.  Incidentally, so did the choir of Westminster Cathedral.  Here is a video of that choir singing the Agnus Dei at the Papal Mass in 2010. 

The whole of that Mass may be viewed here – every ‘liturgy planner’ should so do. 

Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral Choir will be singing the Byrd Agnus Dei for Palm Sunday