While attending Solemn High Mass in the 1890s, at churches such as Köln Cathedral and St. Gervais, Paris, Edward Martyn developed a great love of liturgical music. Amazingly, by 1900 Martyn had found an all-boys choir in Dublin – under the direction of Vincent O’Brien – capable of singing to the standards of the choirs he had heard in Köln and Paris. Edward Martyn immediately began a vigorous campaign for O’Brien’s boys to replace the existing choir of the Pro-Cathedral.
*John McCormack is sixth from left, back row.
By a grand combination of relentless argument and generous personal endowment, Martyn achieved his ambition. The agreement was signed on November 26, 1902 and the Palestrina Choir was constituted and installed in the Pro-Cathedral on New Year’s Day 1903.
Writer Thomas MacGreevy recalled seeing Martyn in the Pro-Cathedral on Sundays: ‘Half-crippled with arthritis, one would see him making his way slowly up the aisle. And how pleased he was if, afterwards, one ventured to make an appreciative remark about the music or the rendering of it. He really loved his choir, as many less musically learned Irishmen than he have come to love it since.’
The celebration of its Centenary Year in 2003 highlighted the immense contribution made by the Palestrina Choir to the Pro-Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Dublin and indeed the nation, during those first 100 years. While maintaining an unbroken tradition of service at the Pro-Cathedral Sunday liturgy, the Choir has also performed at countless State occasions, made many recordings, featured nationally and internationally on radio and television as well as travelling extensively across the nation – and the globe.
Of course, the Choir’s raison d’être has always been to sing at the celebration of Mass in the Pro-Cathedral and this duty, above all, it continues to fulfil to this day.
Read a more detailed history.