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ORCHESTRAL MASS: Church’s musical tradition ‘a treasure of inestimable value’


UWA lecturer Dr Nicholas Bannan and Cathedral Director of Music Jacinta Jakovcevic lead the choir during High Mass on Sunday 28 July. Photo: Matthew Lau.

By Matthew Lau

Perth Catholics were treated to the grandeur of sacred music during the annual St Mary’s Cathedral Orchestral Mass last Sunday.

About 110 musically gifted WA students joined the Cathedral Choir for the occasion, which this year saw the largest number of schools and universities represented since the event’s origination in 2015.

Cathedral Assistant Priest Father Conor Steadman celebrated the High Mass on 28 July, which focussed on the Gospel according to Luke 11:1-13.


Cathedral Assistant Parish Priest Fr Conor Steadman incenses the altar. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“Sacred music, especially in the liturgical context of Mass, far from being a performance or even mere entertainment, is in fact an act of worship, a prayer offered to God in love,” he explained.At the commencement of Mass, Fr Steadman reflected on the reverence of devotional music.

“We thank the members of the choir and orchestra for their dedication, their hard work, and their commitment to developing their musical skills, and in helping us to lift our hearts and minds to God during this Mass."

Jacinta Jakovcevic, Director of Music at St Mary’s, said the Cathedral was delighted to host a regional school for the first time as more than 30 John Paul College students made the inner-city trip from Kalgoorlie.


Organist Pia Schelfhout plays the final hymn of the Mass on 28 July. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“One of them is that the vast number of compositions of sacred music over many centuries were indeed written for Catholic liturgy – so to experience these pieces in the context of the actual sacred liturgy is not only a faith experience, but an educational experience too,” Ms Jakovcevic remarked.The Mass, she said, highlighted a number of aspects.

“Something which is very important to me is the development and training of young musicians in the Church – that they see their God-given talents as a way to develop themselves into first rate professionals and then using those skills and that professionalism to deepen their own faith and to contribute to the life of the whole Church.”


The entire Orchestral Mass ensemble at the sanctuary of St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth. Photo: Matthew Lau.

This, she added, was central to the documents of Vatican II – particularly where it mentions in Sacrosanctum Concilium 112: “the purpose of sacred music [as] the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful”.

The Cathedral Music Programme’s first Organ Scholar (2009-2012) Chadwick Beins, who is now Head of Music at St Norbert’s College, returned to familiar surroundings by bringing a group of his students to participate in the 2019 Orchestral Mass.