12 September 2014 to 26 April 2015
This festival looked at a part of church life that extends well beyond the church walls. We find it on television and radio, in schools, in the Usher Hall and at pop concerts. Sacred Music - you can play it, you can sing it, you can listen to it, you can dance to it, you can be uplifted by it, you can be transported by it, you can be comforted by it. It appeals to Christians, to people of other faiths and none, to people of all ages; it is recognised for what it is. People have favourite pieces and hymns, from memories of school assemblies, weddings, music that stirs the soul, or the words have special meaning. But what do we know about the origins of Sacred Music? Why has it developed as it has? What is its history? What was/is it for? The Festival of Sacred Music shed some light on these questions.
It ran at Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, Edinburgh, from 12 September 2014 to 26 April 2015, a period that included many of the great Christian celebrations which have inspired some of the finest music written. The Brochure showed that it covered a spectrum of musical tastes and offered something for all ages. As well as concerts there were lectures illustrated with music to deepen knowledge and understanding, and workshops which enabled participation in the music from different traditions. For example, there were workshops on the Scottish Psalms and Spirituals. There were visits by Jonathan Wainwright: distinguished musicologist and professor at the University of York, John Butt: renowned professor of music from Glasgow, and artistic director of the Dunedin Consort, and Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter, an acknowledged authority on Scottish cultural history, with music performed by Sang Scule. We were very pleased too that we had input from our own choir, the choral group and other singers and musicians. Music from George Watsons Caritas Strings, at the opening concert, for example. Also in our regular worship here at Mayfield Salisbury a wide breadth of sacred music featured special pieces as the programme moved through the church calendar.
The Brochure containing the full programme can be downloaded here.
More photographs of the events can be found in the Gallery
Some Closing Words
At its best, music used in the service of worship lifts us above rational thought, above doctrine and tradition, into the peace, calm and silence of the Sacred. For many, music bears the sould to a greater height, leaving behind the shortcomings of reason in order that we may encounter the Holy, the numinous, in the intimacy of our inner self. Presence, joy and sublime happiness defy analysis: music is a doorway into inexpressible unspeakable mystery.
The Festival has greatly enriched the life of our congregation. Many people beyond our membership have been drawn to the programme of events and public worship on Sunday morning. The Festival will leave a legacy which will inform our thinking and shape our public worship for years to come.
Scott S McKenna