In 1993 a young priest of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, Fr Michael Brown, freshly returned from his study of canon law at the English College in Rome, obtained from Bishop Ambrose Griffiths permission for a monthly traditional Mass at Morpeth in Northumberland. Fr Brown approached me and asked if I would organise some music for this Mass and thus was the Schola Gregoriana of Northumbria born. Singing Gregorian Chant at the monthly Morpeth Mass was the regular work of the Schola for its first months.
Happily, news of the Schola’s existence and requests for the Schola's services grew. While singing for traditional Masses has always been the backbone of the Schola’s work, the choir has taken Gregorian Chant around the region over the past thirteen years, singing at special parish celebrations, weddings and funerals. We have run a workshop on the Chant and provided the music for Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle. We have also sung for a traditional Requiem Mass at Middlesbrough Cathedral, gathering enthusiastic praise in the Middlesbrough diocesan newspaper: ‘the truly superb choir … sang the entire Proper of the Mass with consummate skill’.
An early appearance at the Brinkburn Music Festival, sharing a platform with the Orlando Consort, led to the establishment of the annual traditional Mass at Brinkburn Priory, and to further concert work. One notable concert was a joint event with one of Newcastle’s best choirs, the Cappella Novocastriensis, at which the Schola sang the Chant Requiem interspersed with Durufle’s setting sung by the Cappella.
The success of this concert led to the forging of a successful working relationship with the Cappella, who have now joined us to sing a polyphonic Ordinary at the Brinkburn Mass and Victoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosum for the visit to Tyneside of Bishop Rifan. One of the interesting things about joint events of this type is the interest of the singers from the visiting choir at an opportunity to sing the music of Palestrina or Victoria in its proper context and interweaved with the Chants of the Proper.
We are also fortunate to have a close working relationship with organist Peter Locke. He is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire and was assistant organist at St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham. He is now organist at St Dominic's Priory, Newcastle. Peter plays for all major Schola events and also sings with the Schola.
The Schola now sings mainly at St Joseph’s Gateshead, where there is a traditional Mass every Sunday at 12 noon. We now aim to sing one Sunday Mass at St Joseph’s each month. Apart from that our plans include Masses on the major feasts and wherever interesting initiatives and invitations might take us. We have an open invitation to sing Vespers at a remote hermitage on the top of a hill in Northumberland…
The purpose of this blog is to record and report on the Schola's activities and plans. Other matters relating to high quality liturgical music may also appear from time to time.