St Cecilia – a saint of note

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We sing about her, we have concerts in her honour – but who was St Cecilia and why is she the patron saint of musicians?

Well she’s thought to have come from one of third century Rome’s aristocratic and wealthy families and was said to have worn sackcloth next to her skin and constantly called upon the angels, saints and virgins to preserve her own maidenhood.

That didn’t stop her being given in marriage to the Roman Valerian but she is said to have spent the ceremony singing ‘in her heart’ to God or listening to heavenly music. No doubt Valerian was delighted when she told him on the wedding night that she had taken a vow of virginity and was now protected by an angel.

Understandably, her new husband was quite keen to see this angel,but his wife told him that wouldn’t be possible until he had travelled part way along one of Rome’s most important roads, the Via Appia and been baptised by the Pope.

This he duly did and returned to see the angel, who is then said to have crowned Cecilia with a garland of roses and lilies. Word of all this reached Valerian’s brother Tibertius who responded with his own baptism and the brothers went on to dedicate their lives to burying those killed for their faith by the city’s then prefect. The siblings were ultimately executed for their trouble.

Cecilia, meanwhile, spent her life preaching and was said to have converted over 400 people as a result but this, too, led to her arrest. She was condemned to die by suffocation in the public baths. However, despite being shut up for around 48 hours as the fires were stoked to a blazing heat, she survived – without even breaking a sweat.

So the city’s same prefect then ordered her decapitation. She was struck three times but lived on for another three days while crowds visited, collecting her blood as she continued to preach and pray.

She is buried under the high altar of her titular church in Trastevere, Rome, and is regarded as the patroness of musicians/music because of all she heard and sang on her wedding day.

Our concert, in St Martin’s Church, London Road, Worcester, comes one day after her feast day, November 22. For tickets please visit our home page or Eventbrite.

Royal Wedding revisited – musically!

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry couldn’t have timed their wedding better, says our musical director Stephen Shellard.

The day, when the world’s gaze will be trained upon Windsor Castle to see the sixth in line to the throne tie the knot, comes just one week before we perform highlights from our latest recording Royal Worcester – A Celebration of Music for Royal Occasions.

Our disc already includes music heard at William and Kate’s 2011 wedding and the concert, in Crowle’s St John the Baptist Church on May 26, will include pieces familiar from other magisterial events down the centuries, such as coronations and jubilee celebrations.

“We wish the royal couple all the best for the future – and thank them for choosing the date they did,” grins Stephen.  “Some of the most beautiful, uplifting and rousing music has been performed at royal weddings and if you like what you heard at Harry’s wedding, we can give you another ‘live’ taste a week after.”

The concert, whose title Royal Worcester also references the world-famous Worcester Porcelain factory, heralds the start of a busy year for us as we celebrate our 20th anniversary.

Our group was stablished by Stephen, Senior Lay Clerk at Worcester Cathedral, who wanted to create a group of high quality local singers with a prestigious concert repertoire and to further enrich the cathedral’s own choral tradition. 

We now sing regularly at services and also guest at other churches in the diocese. Our Nine Lessons and Carols services at Kempsey in recent years have proved particularly popular.

We are also proud of our established concert repertoire and have also been asked to perform with other artists, including rock legend Rick Wakeman. Our current CD, which is available from the Cathedral Shop and on Spotify, Amazon Music and iTunes, is the latest addition to a growing catalogue of recordings.

Future events lined up for our anniversary year include a a trip to Lichfield Cathedral for a joint performance with its own chamber choir of Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli a celebration weekend of singing Cathedral services and a gala dinner.

Our Crowle performance is due to start at 7.30pm and will include works such as Handel’s Zadok the Priest and I Was Glad, by Parry.  Tickets are available from the church, Crowle Post Office or on 01905 381820. 

Stephen Shellard

Harry and Meghan couldn’t have timed their wedding better, says our MD Stephen Shellard

May 26 concert poster

Royal Worcester CD

Our latest CD, Royal Worcester – Music for Royal Occasions