Where there is Charity and Love - the Music of Paul Mealor, St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Review

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Schola Cantorum
Ubi Caritas (2011), A Welsh Prayer (2014), A Spotless Rose (2011), The Beatitudes (2013), O Sweetest Jesus (2012), Wherever You Are (2011), Selwyn Service: II Nunc Dimittis (2017), Coronation Kyrie (2023), I am the Gentle Light (2012), Ave Maria (2012), The Shadow of thy Cross (2014), Blessing (2013)
Paul Mealor (composer), Michael Ferguson (director/interviewer), Schola Cantorum
Running time

The music of Paul Mealor has been a blessing and inspiration in the world of contemporary choral music. 

Two of his most well-known works opened each half of the performance. In the first, we heard Ubi Caritas, first performed back in 2011 by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and HM Chapel Royal on the occasion of the wedding of the (now) TRH Duke & Duchess of Cambridge.

The recital was punctuated with informative explanation, given via the form of a conversation between Mealor himself and Michael Ferguson. Mealor told us that his inspiration for Ubi Caritas was that the Duchess of Cambridge was about to become a ‘servant of the nation’, and this well-known text, now set afresh, recalled the act of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Mealor said that composing was, for him, like praying – an act of giving, but offered meditatively: The Spotless Rose was one such fruit of this. He further explained that composing could be a lonely but beautiful thing – which led us fittingly into The Beatitudes, before Wherever You Are completed the first half.

This latter piece transcended all the musical genres: classical, folk and religious – it was at one time played by Chris Evans on the radio no less than twice a day! Being inspired by an encounter with Gareth Malone, the anthem emerged as a piece for partners of active servicemen, using some of the letters submitted by those women.

The principal item in the second half was the Coronation Kyrie, commissioned for that event in May this year, and sung by the same joint choirs as the Ubi Caritas above.

You did get the impression throughout this performance that the 10 voices of Schola Cantorum sometimes appeared insufficient to the music required, and the sound was often lost in the cathedral’s expansive space. We certainly appreciated Mealor’s musical genius (and this was enhanced by the commentary given), but the performance of his works fell a little bit short.

The performance finished at 9.30pm.

Where there is Charity and Love - the Music of Paul Mealor, Monday 14th August, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral