I joined the In Caelo Choir in Newbridge Parish in January of this year. We rehearse every second Tuesday night and we sing at Mass every second Sunday. I am very much one of the newbies to the choir so I had no idea that from time to time the choir gets invited to sing in other churches. I was delighted to hear that we had been asked to sing at Mass in Saint Mary’s Pro – Cathedral in Dublin on Saint Patrick’s Day. I was nervous too! I was doubly nervous when I realised we would be singing most of the parts of the Mass and the hymns in Irish and that we would be doing so in the presence of President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
The Saint Patrick’s Day Mass is an important service in the liturgical calendar and no more so this year as it is 1916 and we are commemorating the events of 1916. As well as singing in the presence of Uachtarán na hÉireann, we would also be performing to a packed church with a congregation made up of people from Dublin, from around Ireland and from around the world. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was presiding at the Mass and Father Bryan Shorthall from the Capuchins would be the chief celebrant and the homilist.
We had intensive rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the Mass under the direction of Cora Coffey. Sharon Lyons, who would be the soloist on the day of the Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, also came to spend time with us in rehearsal.
We left Newbridge bright and early on Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March) and made our way to Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, through the streets which were cordoned off for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. After weeks of rehearsals we felt ready but nervous at the prospect of being part of such an important and established tradition of the annual Aifreann Phádraig Naofa.
Thankfully there was time for a quick run through of all our pieces with Sharon and Cora. We were accompanied by Padraig Meredith on piano and we had some organ accompaniment from Gerard Gillen. Our singing was given a real traditional Irish flavour by the addition of a harp and some uilleann pipes and we had a very talented brother and sister playing cello and violin. We sang most of the pieces in Irish and our finale piece was Hail Glorious Saint Patrick.
After the Mass was over we had a chance to enjoy some refreshments in the side rooms of the Pro Cathedral. We met some of the priests attached to the Pro-Cathedral and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin came out to say hell and to stand in for a quick photo!
We were all wearing a beautifully crocheted green shamrocks made by hand by one of our choir members Sinéad Buckley. Sinéad had made an extra one in the hope that she might get a chance to present it to the President’s wife Sabina. The chance came and a delighted Sabina Higgins is now the proud owner of a beautiful piece of crochet made by Sinéad.
One of the highlights of the day was when we all had a chance to pose for a photo with President Higgins and his wife. We were lined up the stairs of the side entrance to the Pro Cathedral house. We decided to kill the time we were waiting for the Presidential party to arrive by reprising a verse of Hail Glorious Saint Patrick. When the President and his wife arrived for the photo they invited us to sing for them again. We were only too happy to oblige and as I reviewed the video afterwards I noticed that both of them were singing along with us to Hail Glorious Saint Patrick. Afterwards, they thanked us and wished us a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
This is a short video of the verse we sang for the President and his wife.
We waved them off from the Pro-Cathedral where they sat into a waiting car to immediately officiate at the opening of the parade.
We left on a high, with wonderful memories of a day which will never be forgotten and with a great feeling of pride in ourselves, in our country and in our President and First Lady.
Didn’t I pick just the right year to join the choir?