DIRECTOR: MS. BLANAID MURPHY
MANAGER: MS. GERMAINE CARLOS
CHORAL ASSISTANT/EDUCATION OFFICER: MR DARREN MAGEE
ORGAN SCHOLAR: MR. ADAM COLLINS
ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARY: MS. MARY IRWIN
(00 353 1) 8745441 ext.9218
History of the Palestrina Choir
The Palestrina Choir had its origins in a boys' choir formed in the 1890's by Dr. Vincent O'Brien, then a music teacher at St. Mary's Place Christian Brothers School in Dublin. It was at a performance of Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli at St. Teresa's Carmelite Church in Clarendon Street in 1898 that this choir, and its gifted director, first came to the attention of Edward Martyn.
Martyn was born to a family of Catholic landed gentry in Tulira Castle, Co.Galway in 1859. He was educated in Belvedere College, Dublin, Beaumont College, Windsor and Christ Church, Oxford. He is perhaps better known for his involvement in the Irish Literary Theatre, later to become the Abbey Theatre, which he co-founded in 1898 with W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and George Moore. However, his interest in establishing a national theatre was matched, if not exceeded, by his interest in the reform of liturgical music in Ireland. During his university days, he traveled extensively in Europe, where he was struck by the quality of the choirs he heard in the great cathedrals there. He was determined that the Catholic Church in Ireland should have music of an equivalent standard.
In particular, he wished to promote the music of Palestrina which was espoused by Pope Pius X as a standard to which liturgical music should aspire. Between 1898 and 1902, Martyn worked tirelessly to establish the choir at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, offering an endowment of £10,000 (in current terms about £800,000) on condition that Dr. O'Brien was appointed choirmaster. The agreement was signed on November 26th, 1902, and the Palestrina Choir was constituted and installed in the Pro-Cathedral on January 1st, 1903.
In the century since its foundation, the Choir has had seven Directors. Dr. Vincent O'Brien, director until his death in 1948, was succeeded by his son, Oliver. In 1978, Fr. Seán O hEarcaigh took over the baton from Oliver O'Brien. He was succeeded in 1982, by Ms. Ite O'Donovan and in 1996 by Comdt. Joseph Ryan. Ms. Órla Barry was then director for five years before being succeeded by the current director, Ms. Blánaid Murphy.
The celebration of its Centenary Year in 2003 highlighted the immense contribution made by the Palestrina Choir to the Pro-Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Dublin and the nation during its first 100 years. While maintaining an unbroken tradition of service at the Sunday liturgy at the Pro-Cathedral, the Choir has also performed at countless State occasions, has featured on radio and TV nationally and internationally and has travelled extensively in recent years. In recognition of this the Choir was awarded the much coveted St Cecilia Award by the Vocal Heritage Society of Ireland in December 2003.
In June 2004 the Choir represented Ireland at a concert in Bratislava to mark the closing of the cultural programme of Ireland's EU Presidency. In 2006 the Choir undertook a major tour to Poland, and the Czech Republic. The Choir and also performed a monthly series of Mozart Masses, sung with full orchestra at the Pro-Cathedral; and a launched a CD, 'The Bells of the Angelus' to critical acclaim, which featured traditional hymns and anthems form Ireland together with the classical Mass setting of Hadyn's Missa Brevis in F performed as originally written for boy sopranos.
In 2007 the Choir continued its busy schedule performing once again at the Bach Cantata series in Dublin in January and at the Dun Laoghaire Organ Festival in June. The Choir also toured to London in July performing at Westminster Cathedral, the Brompton Oratory and at Worth Abbey. In 2008 they toured to Limburg, Germany singing in Limburg Cathedral and Cologne Cathedral.
Since 2002 the Choir has been directed by Blanaid Murphy, one of the foremost choral music directors in the country and it continues to thrive and develop under her direction. There are currently over 40 boys in the Choir and in the Junior Probationers, and there is huge demand for annual entry, which confirms the current strength and future of the Palestrina Choir in its second century of residence at the Pro-Cathedral.
Blánaid Murphy Director
Blánaid Murphy studied music at Cambridge University where she also held an organ scholarship. For four years, Blánaid furthered her studies with Professor Konrad Richter at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart. She has wide experience as a conductor and vocal coach in Germany and throughout Europe.
Since 1993, Blánaid has been based in Dublin and is in great demand as a conductor. She has been Choral Director of the RTE Children's Choir Cór na nÓg, she is Director of Canzona Chamber Choir, Carlow Choral Society and The Dublin Bach Singers and she is Choral Director at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
Blánaid is also Choral Director of the Irish Philharmonic Chorus on the record-breaking Faith of Our Fathers recording. Her CD Cór, choral arrangements of Irish melodies by David Mooney, is available on the ARSIS label.
The Bells of the Angelus – Palestrina Choir of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
This award winning chart busting ‘Best Seller’ of the Palestrina Choir, includes specially written choral arrangements by David Mooney of much-loved Irish hymn melodies.
Ranging from The Bells of the Angelus, Lord of All Hopefulness and Hail, Queen of Heaven to the Queen of the May and the most poignant of Irish hymns such as Ag Críost an Síol and Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig, and including the complete work of Haydn’s Missa Brevis in F, this is a very special collection of liturgical favourites.
Recorded in the inspiring acoustic of St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, the Boys and Gentlemen of the Palestrina Choir combine with two extraordinarily gifted boy sopranos Diarmuid Sugrue and Louis Mahon, organists David Connolly and Gerard Gillen, harpist Denise Kelly, the Orchestra of St Cecilia and their legendary Director, Blánaid Murphy, to create a rich palette and an inspirational garland of Ireland’s best-loved and most-cherished hymn melodies.
It is difficult to imagine the Pro-Cathedral without the Palestrina Choir.
Since 1903 the Choir members and their families have brought a tremendous vibrancy to the life of our cathedral church. The echo of the boys at rehearsal provides a regular, gentle, meditative background for the many people who pray in the church in the afternoon and evening time.
The sound of the boys at play provides a welcome input of youthful enthusiasm into the life of the cathedral. The commitment to thrice weekly rehearsals leads to the melodious harmony and choral excellence which only this level of commitment from the Boys, Gentlemen, the Director and Assistants can achieve.
All of this effort is directed towards the worthy celebration of the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy, “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed the fount from which all her power flows.”