Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mass for St Cuthbert`s Day at Stella

A group of priests of the diocese are arranging a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the church of  St Mary and St Thomas Aquinas at Stella, near Blaydon for St Cuthbert`s day ( March 20th). Mass will start at 12 noon and the music for the ordinary of the Mass will be Palestrina`s Aeterna Christi Munera setting which will be sung by the choir of St George`s, Cullercoats. This should be a splendid occasion and an opportunity to visit one of the most historic churches in the diocese for anyone who hasn`t been there before.

Here`s some information about the parish culled from `Down Your Aisles` by Michael Morris and Leo Gooch.

The earliest record of a Catholic presence at Stella is in 1149 when the bishop of Durham granted the manor of Stella to the Benedictine nuns of Newcastle as a summer retreat and a source of income. Stella Hall was created after the dissolution of the monasteries but was built by a Catholic, Nicholas Tempest. In 1598, the bishop of Durham writing about Catholic activity in his diocese wrote `Nicholas Tempest of Stella, that great recusant... where at Stella, if I am rightly informed, they keep up a Popish spiritual service`.

A priest was in residence at the hall throughout the penal period with Benedictines and Jesuits serving as chaplains. An interesting point to note is that the name of the tune for `Hail Queen of Heaven` is Stella because it was composed there.

The church opened on October 12th 1831 and was designed to seat 300. A three part Mass ( by Webbes) was sung with full orchestral accompaniment, preceded by the overture to the Messiah and terminated by the Hallelujah Chorus! The church is notable for the design of the presbytery which is added as a kind of facade to the church so that from the road it looks like a castle more than anything, presumably so as not to alarm any passing Protestants. Stella Hall itself was demolished in 1954. Four daughter parishes have been founded from Stella.


Thomas More said...

St George's Cullercoats is a fine building, designed (I believe) by Pearson and paid for by the then Duke of Northumberland. But it is an Anglican Church.

Are there no Cathoilc choirs that could be used for these Masses? Northumbria used to have a notable Schola. And does not St Dominic's in newcastle have a choir specifically devoted to singing for the Traditional Latin Mass?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Sad to say there is no Catholic choir on Tyneside which could sing this repertoire.

The schola broke up when all its members moved away from Tyneside.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is slightly off topic, but the post reminded me of something I've been meaning to ask you for ages, namely, do you have or know where I can find a recording of the St Cuthbert's Grammar School song (Alma Mater By The Tyne)?

I'd love to hear it again. If I search Google, the only time I ever find reference to the song is here in this blog - there's no trace anywhere else, no Youtube recordings or anything.

JB (posting without logging in as I can't remember me password)

Seeker said...

Father, might that be the gentle thud of a gauntlet hitting the floor? I wonder what interest there would be in a diocese wide choral effort?

Em said...

If there was to be a diocese wide choral effort of some description, would it be at all possible to prevent a) the musical director getting out of control b) the musical director's hangers-on getting out of control and c) general bullying of anyone in the choir that choir members did not happen to like for whatever reason (eg. because someone preferred more traditional repertoire to someone else)?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Seeker, my experience has led my to conclude,sadly, that there really isn`t enough interest among Catholics on Tyneside. Even those I know who sing in established choirs aren`t interested in singing the same liturgical music in church which they sing in concerts. It seems `Bind us together` and ` God forgave my sin` are the kind of thing everyone wants.

Em said...

What about that hideous thing that I can't remember the name of but is sung in some parishes at the Easter Vigil. The second line is something like "with horse and rider thrown into the sea" and is in some way connected with the reading from Exodus?
Sadly, or rather happily, I can no longer remember the typical repertoire having been in Austria for a year now.

1569 Rising said...

Em, your memory is phenomenal!

Easter Vigil,
Third reading
Responsorial Psalm:

"I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!
Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea!
The Lord is my strength, my song, my salvation.
This is my God and I extol him,
my father's God and I give him praise."
"I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!"

Three more verses.

I seem to recall a parish folk group murdering this psalm, but that is a long time ago.

On the general subject of the ability or otherwise of parish choirs attempting Palestrina, I would advise caution - it is specialised stuff, and even accomplished choral ensembles struggle with the detail. St George's choir is an accompished group, and the singing should be worth hearing.

A small group does sing plainchant at EF Masses in the Diocese, but even we would hesitate to tackle Palestrina. BUT, we try our best - more input from the congregation would help surely we all know Credo 3 and Missa de Angelis?

Em said...

The parish folk group you are referring to (I think) was in fact a "choir". This piece of hideousness was never played by any folk groups you would be familiar with.
I remember attempting to accompany this song on the organ at an Easter Vigil where the Genesis reading was replaced by some kind of powerpoint presentation with soothing whale music in the background. I'm fairly sure it was the same year that they had some weird bonfire thing happening outside and it was the same year that the washing of the feet was replaced by people acting out setting a table while someone droned on some rubbish in the background about how this signified Jesus serving his people. *Huge sigh*

The plans had in fact been even worse but I managed to get some of them dropped. Shortly after this they suddenly started "forgetting" to tell me about liturgy planning meetings. After that debacle I never spent another Easter in the UK.

1569 Rising said...


I am sure the horse and rider that had finished up in the sea would have been soothed greatly by the "whale music", (or should that be "wailing music"?

You are quite right, when the lunatics have taken over the asylum, it is time for the sane to leave!

Mike Forbester said...

If it's of any interest, and I hope it is[!], the same Palestrina Mass will be sung for the closing Mass of this year's EF training conference at Ushaw on April 16th. I appreciate it's a work-day for many, but if you are able to go, please do!

Out of interest, how did the choir sing the Proper? Were they able to sing the chant from the Graduale, or did they use another harmonised/chant based version?

1569 Rising said...


They sang a version unfamiliar to me - certainly not the Liber Usualis Plainchant version, nor the Rossini psalmtones. Because I couldn't see the choir from where I was, I got the impression that the propers were sung by 2 (or maybe 3)male voices, as distinct form the Palestrina Mass sung by the whole mixed choir.

In my opinion, a quite splendid example of Anglican choral music. Roll on Anglicanorum Coetibus, we have a lot to learn, and gain from them.

Anonymous said...

St Mary's Cathedral choir sings traditional Catholic music every Sunday (polyphony, plainsong) at the 11.30 Mass. They use much of the old repertoire, and sing the Ordinary in Latin at least once a month. The choir doesn't sing the old Latin propers, but not because they couldn't....