Wednesday, 23rd November 2022

Musicians celebrated at St Cecilia service

A service to Mark the Festival of St Cecilia - the patron saint of music and musicians - was held at Westminster Abbey in conjunction with Help Musicians UK on Wednesday 23rd November 2022.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said in his Bidding:

'Today, we give thanks for the witness of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, and for the gift of music which tunes our voices in the harmony of praise. [...] This holy place is a House of Kings and Queens and a place of memory, where we name and recall the gifts and virtues that we rightly celebrate.  Here are Purcell, Vaughan Williams, William Croft, and so many more. Here, we gather different choirs and celebrate in the company of those who care for and sustain our choral heritage. We give thanks for their efforts and especially for the work of Help Musicians UK. Now we make our offering of praise confident in the loving mercy of God and inspired that we now take our place in the community of praise.'

The service was sung by the combined choirs of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, conducted by James O’Donnell, the Abbey's Organist and Master of the Choristers. Among the music was With Eys Lift Up, a new anthem by Nico Muhly commissioned specially for the service; and Like as the Heart by Judith Weir, commissioned for the State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Josh Pyman, clarinet, played from La Naissance d'un Papillon by Desportes.

The Reverend James Mustard, Canon Precentor of Exeter Cathedral, gave the Address; and opera singer and Help Musicians UK ambassador Nicky Spence read a testimonial.

Readings were given by Charisse Beaumont, CEO of Black Lives in Music, and by Jeff Kelly, Master of the Musicians' Company.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Mark Birch, the Abbey's Minor Canon and Precentor.

The organ was played during the service by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, Westminster Abbey. Peter Stevens, Assistant Master of Music, Westminster Cathedral, played before the service and William Fox, Acting Organist and Assistant Director of Music, St Paul’s Cathedral, afterwards.

Help Musicians UK

Help Musicians UK is a charity for professional musicians of all genres, both in work and in retirement.

The Festival of St. Cecilia has been the flagship event in the charity's calendar since 1946. It is a moment to celebrate what music brings to all of us, and to mark the contribution that musicians make to our lives.