“Playing for the eucharist at St Margaret’s is as close you’ll ever get to playing a dangerous sport”…… ……William Brown, Organist and Choirmaster, 1990-1997.

Whether it is Gregorian Chant, mixing Scots Metrical psalmody with Latin Gregorian Psalmody, improvising at full organ for minutes on end, or word-painting the hymns, the music offered at St Margaret’s is something that could never be described as “bland”.

At St Margaret’s, we believe that music should not be considered as an optional extra. Music is valued as an important integral part of the Liturgy. Music is required to accompany the services and to embellish the sense of occasion. It may be singing an unaccompanied psalm in the desolation of the procession to the Garden of the Vigil in the St Nicholas Chapel on Maundy Thursday, or the organist blending together an improvisation of the plainsong of Advent with the Offertory Hymn of the day.

There is also the singing of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by visiting choirs who regularly sing Solemn Evensong, with incense being offered up at the High Altar during the Magnificat. We use Russian settings of the Litany and the Lord’s Prayer by Fr Paddy Shannon. The music is sympathetic to liturgical variation and mood.

The music that is heard at St Margaret’s ranges from earliest times to contemporary. From the 13th Century, we use the sequence Dies Irae in Funeral rites, and the old traditional propers for special services outwith Sunday Eucharists. From the Missa de Angelis to other ones such as Ceòl Nan Gàidheal, a Gaelic setting composed by William Brown, and a modern setting called the Kilbride Mass by John McIntosh. In keeping with the more contemporary repertoire, many of our hymns are well known. The less known music has been either composed especially for St Margaret’s or is only sung once a year according to the Liturgical Kalendar. 

The organist plays music from a range of eras-everything from Bach, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Brahms, Leighton, Whitlock, as well as a number of his own works. He improvises every week before and during the service, incorporating various musical themes found in the service- almost acting as a game to see if anyone can recognise the tune!

Having a priest who has a significant musical inclination is certainly a major factor in the sounds that are produced in church. A competent singer, “part-time” organist as well as a promoter and enthusiast for all things musical, the priest is involved in singing various parts of the mass and joining in hymns, when he isn’t busy doing something else in the liturgy. Liturgical movement often allows the organist opportunity to continue improvising. No long standing member of the congregation could say the Fr Emsley hasn’t put in the effort to let music flourish.

The Musical Director, James Campbell, is always keen to hear of anyone who is interested in music at St Margaret’s. If you are interested in either learning to play the organ or singing in the choir, please contact him through the contact page. He is aiming to take on a couple of organ students with the intent of them becoming competent to play at liturgical services in the future.  Please do get in touch, if you, or someone else you know, might be interested.

James G. R. Campbell F.S.C.O.
Musical Director and Organist