The St Mary's Choir Blog

Another bright, sunny morning and were our trebles up bright and early looking happy and ready for anything?  Er, no….actually I don’t think they noticed the weather at all, because they were “tired”.  Can’t say I was surprised as they had been somewhat resistant to settling down last night, and apparently any connection between staying up late and feeling tired was news to them!  Nevertheless they managed to get to the cathedral song school by 9.00, but were definitely in a grumpy mood.

Most of today’s music was distinctly easier than yesterday’s and had an Irish flavour.  But first we had to practice a different set of responses by Philip Moore which, although “clashy”, are always sung with gusto.  The psalm once again was only 9 verses long although with a more challenging chant; and then we got onto rehearsing the evening canticles.  Today’s set are by the eighteenth century…

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The St Mary's Choir Blog

This morning we woke up to blue skies – a most welcome change.  Once again we met at the cathedral song school to rehearse what we always knew would be our most challenging music of the week.  Having fairly quickly dealt with the psalm and responses, we then set to refining the anthem – “Faire is the heaven”.  This piece lasts for a good eight minutes and is for double unaccompanied choir (so no help from the organ); it is also pretty complicated stuff and demands full concentration!  We worked on it for a good forty minutes and got to the point where things were more or less as they needed to be, and decided to quit whilst we were ahead.  There’s always the final rehearsal before evensong to iron out the finishing touches to it.

We then had a quick break whilst waiting to Robert to finish his morning…

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The St Mary's Choir Blog

The first full day of singing started early(ish) with an assortment of breakfast experiences, ranging from those who were presented with a paper bag of goodies to those who had cereal, coffee and toast and those who had a full Irish breakfast. After all these culinary delights, the choir met at the cathedral music room at 9.00 am. Here we were joined by our last choristers and Fr Mark who had come to join us for a couple of days.

We rehearsed the music for tonight’s evensong and also worked on one or two other pieces for tomorrow.  The most challenging of these is “Faire is the Heaven” by Harris, sixteen pages of unaccompanied double choir singing!  We were joined by organist Robert, fresh from checking that the cathedral organ was working properly.

dublin rehearsal

Finally, some good progress was made, and the trebles had a special extra practice of some of…

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The Choir’s journey to Dublin

The St Mary's Choir Blog

So here we are in Dublin after a series of “interesting” events.  For those flying from Birmingham the weather was inclement as we arrived, proving that a “shower-resistant” jacket was not even slightly resistant to drizzle let alone a full-blown downpour.  But we all managed to get there on time, check in luggage, get through security (eventually) and have time for a snack before boarding our flight.  Despite a little turbulence the flight was uneventful and we all managed to collect our luggage, catch the bus to the city centre (on which we discovered our organist Robert who had flown from Bristol) and reach our hostels relatively unscathed.

For those travelling by train and ferry the journey was a little less straight-forward with delays and diversions, but also eventually successful. For tenor Brian, travelling from Bournemouth there was a six hour delay caused by aircraft problems.  But he too eventually…

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The first of the week’s reports from our choir as they goon tour to Dublin

The St Mary's Choir Blog

They came, they sang, and now they’re very nearly ready to go.

We had a busy rehearsal fine-tuning pieces for our first Evensong on Wednesday and working on one or two bits and pieces that needed some extra attention.  Nearly everyone was there, and there was plenty of enthusiasm on show.  There’s still a lot to do to ensure that everything is completely ready, but we’re getting there.  It’s amazing what spending a week together can do, and with some fairly complex pieces coming our way, there’s plenty to focus on.

rehearsalHere we are checking that everyone has the right copies to take with them!

Then we had time for one or two bits of admin – don’t forget your passport, where we’re meeting for supper tomorrow night, and so on…

Finally, time for us all to go home and finish that packing (or in some cases start it!!!).


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Police officers from three forces ascended on St Mary’s Priory this morning …..to be fed…as a leg of their charity cycle in aid of COPs came to an end.


Care of Police Survivors (COPS) is a charity that supports the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty. Officers from Gwent, South Wales & Dyfed Powys Forces met at Abergavenny on route to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire. The sponsored cyclists were fed bacon and sausage rolls and offered tea, coffee and juice to set them up for the remaining stages of the days cycle.The GwentForce had started an hour earlier from their HQ in Croesyceliog while Dyfed Powys and South Wales Police had cycled from Christchurch College Brecon this morning.


Canon Mark Soady, Vicar of St Mary’s Priory and a Chaplain with the Gwent Force said: ”

Since it was established in 2003 COPS has helped hundreds of police families who’s one shave died while on duty. We expect the police to stand between us and danger, so it is right we support the families of those who lost loved ones making that stand for our safety. It was privilege to play our small part in supporting his annual memorial ride, which will raise funds for the work of COPs.”

Speaking at our Annual Ladies Ecumenical Service on Thursday at St Mary’s Priory, Salvation Army Lt Jenni Pryor said,”Are you trying to do for Jesus or are you doing with Jesus. Because that one short word with makes a massive difference”.


Lt Jenni Pryor


Are you a Mary or a Martha? It’s the big question that gets asked every time we hear this story.  There is Martha in the background doing the house work and there is Mary sitting and listening to what is being said.

For all my wanting to be a very spiritual person and behave accordingly I have always been a bit of a Martha!  I like to do stuff!

I feel uncomfortable when I am expected to sit and let other people work around me. I feel a deep sense of obligation to get the practical things in life done.

Do I always manage to do this? No, and do I always do it with a joyful heart? Again No, sometimes yes….most of the time even. But do I as a mother of young children and a co leader of a church do I sometimes feel that responsibility that Martha feels here in this story? Oh yes!

The reality for many of us is we all have a bit of a Martha inside us, and that life and all its demands pulls her out of us, bringing her to the surface we have no choice because who else is going to get the job done? Certainly not Mary!

Now Mary, well it seems that somehow she has got it all sorted, she has figured out what that something ‘better’ is and it isn’t found in the kitchen with Martha, but that doesn’t change the fact that the dishes still need doing, the guests need looking after, the nitty gritty of doing life still needs to happen and so on works Martha.

Yet here is Jesus telling us to not be distracted by all that stuff going on around us. You know, as I spent time reading this story a thought came to me.

Maybe this isn’t a story about which sister is right or wrong, maybe Jesus isn’t telling Martha off or saying Mary is better than her like it seems on the surface, Maybe it is about him giving them permission to be who they are.

Now, hospitality was taken extremely seriously in this culture, creating a gathering such as this one would have taken a lot of work and doing it well said a lot about who you were and how important your guests were to you. Presenting poor food or a house that was not swept and ready for your guest was an insult. So with all her rushing around, actually in her own way Martha is trying to honour Jesus.

Then we have Mary sitting next the Lords feet. This was a pretty scandalous action. Not only was she shirking her responsibilities as a woman and leaving her sister to do all the heavy lifting, but she was putting herself in the place of a disciple. Again in this culture only the closest disciples of a Rabbi would sit at their teacher’s feet. So Mary is putting herself in the place of one of the men closest to Jesus and for a woman, an unmarried woman even, this will have been unheard of in these times.

So Martha is in the kitchen, she has been working all day and she comes into the front room, not only is she tired and fed up of being left to sort it all out by herself but she is now also horrified at the picture before her, I mean completely embarrassed and she was probably trying to get her disgraceful sister out of sight and get some order and respectability back into the whole thing.

Now in light of that information try to put yourself in Martha’s shoes for just a second.

How maddening does Jesus’ response seem? You can almost hear her reaction can’t you? I think it sounded a bit like this ‘Calm down?? But the bread needs baking, the table needs laying and the dishes need washing! Somebody has to do all of this or it won’t get done, and none of you will get any dinner if it isn’t me!’

And that, friend’s, is where Martha is getting it wrong.

This whole belief that Jesus needs something from her, that he is relying on only her that is where Martha falls.

How often do we find ourselves running around doing God’s work? Trying to please him? Or to please others? Keeping the church running, giving all of ourselves to make sure the work gets done over and over again? And then be honest with yourself How often do we just feel drained?

You know the Lord does not need you to do anything for him,

Yes he has called us to take part in his mission for the world and for this community and yes he has called us to serve one another but he does not rely on only you to do it.

He has not called us to a great burden of carrying out his purpose in the world but rather given us a golden opportunity to work with him.

So when you find yourself giving and giving and giving, when you find that you are tired and fed up of others not doing their part, when you find yourself in despair because how will all this ever get done?! It is in that moment that Jesus invites us to just stop it.

The point of this story of two sisters is not that Martha is wrong and Mary is the golden sister, Jesus isn’t saying that.  What he is doing is simply calling Martha to just be with him for a while, he is telling her that he does not need her to run around for him all the time, he just wants to spend time with her.

The something better that Jesus was referring too, was himself. and that same Jesus held out his hand to Martha, not to scold or rebuke but to invite her to join them.

Now I am not saying that we should all pack up and go home to concentrate on being with Jesus; I am from The Salvation Army.  We are known for doing, for being a very practical church and I love that, I being a Martha fit right in!

 But Mathew’s Gospel  (6 v 33) says ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ and just like Mary they will not be taken away from you.

Seek first, then get doing.  I am not saying today that we can all sit back and do nothing because Jesus will do his business.

I am just asking you all to consider whether you acknowledge a relationship with Jesus as the something better, and if everything you do, at work, at home and yes here as well is done within that. Are you trying to do for Jesus or are you doing with Jesus. Because that one short word with makes a massive difference.

Jesus called Martha not to stop working but to not let it all get in top of her. As we head into the sweet time that is the summer holiday period where things wind down and we have a chance to stop a little, let’s take time to let our inner Martha rest in Jesus’ presence.

Let’s let ourselves hear Jesus’ permission to rest and prioritise our relationship with him because there will be times that are busy but when we are facing them with Jesus we face them far stronger then facing them alone. Amen.



Following the service Tea was served in the Priory Centre.