The famed Palestrina Boy's Choir from St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, is performing in New York on Friday, April 10.
In a concert at the iconic Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, the choir will present an evening of sacred music and Irish choral repertoire. The program features works by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Stanford, and Mawby, all introduced by Irish broadcaster Mary Kennedy.
The Palestrina Choir has its origins in a boys’ choir formed in 1897 by Dr. Vincent O’Brien, a music teacher in Dublin. In 1898 at a performance of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli the choir and its gifted director came to the attention of Edward Martyn, a wealthy Catholic landowner from Tulira Castle, Co. Galway. Educated at Oxford, Martyn was best known for his role in the foundation of the Abbey Theatre with WB Yeats, Lady Gregory and George Moore.
However, his interest in establishing a national theater was matched, if not exceeded, by his interest in the reform of liturgical music in Ireland. During his university days, he had traveled extensively in Europe listening to choirs 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, espoused by Pope Pius X as the standard to which all liturgical music should aspire.
Martyn worked tirelessly to establish a choir at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. On January 1, 1903 the Palestrina Choir was installed with Dr. Vincent O’Brien as its director. He continued in this role until his death in
1948, when he was succeeded by his son, Oliver, who held the position for a further 30 years. Probably the most renowned former member of the choir was the well-known Irish tenor, John McCormack.
The Palestrina Choir has maintained an unbroken tradition of Sunday liturgy at the Pro-Cathedral since its foundation. Under its present director, Blánaid Murphy, the choir has traveled extensively to major cathedrals in Europe and USA. The Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord in 2013 was a date of major significance in its history when it sang with the Sistine Chapel Choir at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, at the Papal Mass celebrated by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.
There are currently over 40 boys in the choir and there is significant competition for annual entry. Choristers and Gentlemen of the Choir come from all over Dublin and its environs. The selection process is completely inclusive with strong links to several schools and a special program for schools of the inner city of Dublin.
Membership of the Palestrina Choir has facilitated boys to gain scholarships to secondary / high schools of repute in Ireland, and many former choristers have gone on to successful careers in music or as top professionals in their fields.