Michael Ferguson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 355–370


  • English

Print Length

16 pages

17. Choral Singers and Spiritual Realities

A Perspective from St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral

Music-making has played a fundamental part in Catholic faith and worship since the beginnings of the Church. Today, music-making remains embedded in the spiritual life of the Catholic Church, where it can potentially shape the spiritual realities of those performing and hearing it. Yet accessing and understanding these spiritual realities can be inherently difficult for the researcher. To address this, this chapter takes as its starting point a basic tenet of the Catholic faith: namely its rejection of a dualistic separation of body and spirit, in favour of the complete integration of spirit and body in the human person, which is understood as a body-soul composite. The chapter proposes that understanding “the body” in Catholic music-making can open up a viable path to a better understanding of music-makers’ spiritual realities and experiences. Using a case study of music-making in St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the author is director of music, bodily positioning of choir members in the liturgical space, clothing and robes, and the individual singer vis-à-vis the ensemble are discussed. In doing so, the chapter argues that the body is a valid and potentially fruitful place to begin understanding the spiritual realities of Catholic music-makers. Likewise, it argues that a greater understanding of this could be at the heart not just of fulfilling the musical and practical dimensions of the music director role, but also of fulfilling its spiritual ends most effectively.


Michael Ferguson

Lecturer and Coordinator of Academic Music at University of St Andrews

Michael Ferguson is Lecturer and Coordinator of Academic Music at the University of St Andrews, and Director of Music at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.