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St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

Cathedral Music

The organEver since the arrival of Bishop Gray in 1848 there has been a sustained effort to maintain the cathedral's standard of music. His founding of St George's Grammar School in that year meant the ready availability of choirboys. By 1857 a full cathedral music service was being offered.

While Thomas Barrow Dowling was organist and master of the choristers between 1888 and 1926, the fine Hill organ from St Margaret's in Westminster was erected in the cathedral. Dowling was succeed by Alban Hamer, who was organist for 25 years, and Keith Jewell for ten.

Barry Smith was appointed as Organist and Master of the Choristers in 1964 - the first South African to hold this position, in which he continued for 42 years. Dr Smith sought to further the cathedral's musical mission in the city, and regular choral and orchestral concerts became part of the cathedral's outreach. He was succeeded in 2007 by David Orr.

The liturgical performances of the great orchestral masses by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Bruckner and Stravinsky, given on the last Sunday of each month, have become an important part of the cathedral's music tradition. Full choral evensong is sung on Sunday evenings.

St Augustine, perhaps the greatest of Africa's saints, once said that those who 'sing their prayers to God pray twice' - because they deepen the inadequacy of mere words in order to begin to approach the majesty and glory of their creator.

Words may challenge the mind, but music - as all who attend our 11h00 Masses on the last Sunday of each month would doubtless agree - invigorates the heart, touching us where true transformation is to be forged.

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