Organ Scholarship Thanksgiving Service at Belfast Cathedral

Report by Angela Kerr

A Service of Choral Evensong was held in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, in thanksgiving for church and cathedral organists, church musicians and the work of the Down, Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship Board.

Each year, the Board invites applications for scholarships that are awarded annually. Due to Covid-19, there has been a delay in completing these awards this year as tutors have been unable to teach because of social distancing and because of restrictions placed on cathedrals and churches regarding opening hours has limited access to the pipe organs.

The scheme, which is in its 30th year, helps provide and equip organists for public worship. It was established in 1990 when an anonymous benefactor, recognising the importance of the ministry of music in parish life and worship, provided a very generous endowment to train organists in the dioceses. A Trust was set up and administered by the Church of Ireland Trustees and a Board of Management.

Those attending the service were welcomed by the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast. Music was directed by Cathedral Organist Matthew Owens, assisted by Jack Wilson who accompanied the Cathedral Choir on the organ. Lessons were read by Board members, Lady Brenda Sheil and Gerald Hill.
Another Board member, the Rev Julie Bell, a Minor Canon of the Cathedral, delivered the sermon, and Chancellor John Auchmuty, Chairman, led prayers. The preacher referred to an article she had read in a science publication about birds in San Francisco which started to sing differently in the silence of the pandemic shutdown.
She compared this to the times we are living in and expressed hope about what God can do in many ways, not least in the restoration of church music during the pandemic.

In his prayers, Chancellor Auchmuty gave thanks to God for the gift of music, and for the work and ministry of the organ scholarship tutors, Dr Joe McKee, Michael McCracken and the Rev Dr Ian Mills. He also prayed for the scholars, their parents and families and the work of the Scholarship Board. He remembered with thankfulness and gratitude all those who had previously served on the Board who had left a wonderful legacy behind. In conclusion, prayers were offered for all those who had been infected with coronavirus.

Organ Scholarship Thanksgiving Service at Belfast Cathedral
Those who took part in the Organ Scholarship Thanksgiving Service at Belfast Cathedral

There are currently five scholars in the third year of training. Their tuition will be completed as soon as possible. They are Rebekah Wilson, All Saints’ Belfast; Callum Whiteside, St Mark’s, Ballysillan; Jane Knowles, Broomhedge; Victoria Irwin, St John’s, Whitehouse; and Amy Norris, Kilmore.
The second year pupils are Glen English , St John’s, Magherally; Jack McCabe, Killinchy, Kilmood and Tullynakill; Sean Turner, Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin; and Tanya Zachara ,St Mark’s, Dundela.
First year pupils are David Dunlop, All Saints’, Belfast and Clare Kelly, St Patrick’s, Jordanstown.
The new scholars are Larissa Fleck , St Patrick’s, Armoy; Mark McKinty and Hannah Shaw , both from St Cedma’s, Larne; and Grace Steed, St Mark’s, Dundela.

Read more news from the Cathedral on their website here.