On 7 December, Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrated Advent Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, joined by Primary 6 children from four local primary schools who are actively involved in the Schools’ Singing Programme. The participating schools – Our Lady’s Tullysaran, Mount Saint Catherine’s, Saint Patrick’s, and Saint Malachy’s – filled the cathedral with the joyous melodies of Advent carols having meticulously learned and rehearsed parts of the Mass.
The Schools’ Singing Programme in the Archdiocese of Armagh, which is led by Orla Nugent and Sara-Jane Kelly, has been a resounding success. Their visits to P6 classes have enriched students with both sacred and secular songs, nurturing attentive and sensitive singers. This unique program integrates Religious Education and Music Education, reinforcing school teachings and fostering a deeper understanding.
During the Mass, Archbishop Eamon shared a heartfelt and inspiring message with the children, urging them to “stay awake and be ready, the Lord is coming soon.” Impressed by their choral singing and rendition of Mass parts composed by Colm Murphy, the cathedral’s talented organist and music director, exclaimed, “now I understand why it’s called the Great Amen!”
The Advent Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, represented the culmination of ten weeks dedicated singing instruction with the children and echoed Archbishop Eamon’s unwavering support for this initiative and for the growth of liturgical music across the Archdiocese of Armagh. Orla Nugent, co-leader of the Schools’ Singing Programme in the Archdiocese of Armagh said, ” Archbishop Eamon’s involvement is unsurprising given his own love of liturgical music and his episcopal motto, ‘Cantate Domino Canticum Novum‘ – Sing a new song to the Lord.
“This love for liturgical music was showcased during the Mass when he demonstrated his own capacity for solo singing in ‘Still, Still, Still’ and through the gentle encouragement of all the children involved. There can be no doubt that the children present were inspired to continue their involvement and it is hoped that some will aspire to become confident independent singers themselves.”
The profound benefits of singing, including its positive impact on self-esteem, have been evident among the participants. Sean McKinley, principal of Saint Patrick’s Primary School in Armagh, remarked, “Our children have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the Schools’ Singing Programme. Their participation has had a tangible positive impact on their self-confidence and their enthusiasm for singing. They were full of pride in representing their school at the special celebratory mass with other neighbouring schools.”
Looking ahead, the singing tutors eagerly anticipate commencing ten weeks of singing instruction with Primary 5 students following the Christmas break.