St Mary's Cathedral is returning to music in style, announcing a top Scottish composer as its new patron of music.

Sir James MacMillan will assist the rebuilding of the Cathedral’s musical life as the lifting of covid restrictions sees a return to choral music and congregational singing.

Sir James said: “I’m delighted to become the new patron of music at St Mary’s Cathedral.

"I wish all the musicians well in the development of their skills and their vocations as musicians, especially when liturgical life comes back to some kind of normality after this dreadful Covid experience.”


MacMillan has risen to become Scotland’s most successful living composer and said that his formative experiences were at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

He said: “There was something about attending Mass here, even as a little boy, that sticks very much in my mind.

"There were these rituals and images from far away, but it was associated with the most glorious sound, and the sound was the choir of St Mary’s Cathedral.

"My instinct is that the secular and sacred are inextricably connected, and that my journey as a composer began in those distant snatches of Gregorian chant and Palestrina motets which floated down from the sanctuary of St Mary’s in the mid 1960s.”

Monsignor Patrick Burke, Administrator of the Cathedral, said: “I came to St Mary’s Cathedral as Administrator about six years ago, and many things were new to me but one of the things that really surprised me was the discovery of this extraordinary musical tradition that exists here, which goes back about a century and a half and which continues to the present day.”


For Director of Music, Michael Ferguson, the impact of Covid-19 on the Cathedral’s musical tradition was sudden.

“Our musical life was really flourishing before the pandemic hit," he said. "Our eight-voice Schola Cantorum choir had become one of the top liturgical choirs in Scotland, and Delphian Records had just recorded our first album for us, With Angels and Archangels, a week before the first lockdown. Then everything just stopped.”

Despite the disruption the Cathedral community’s optimism has never faltered.

He added: “In the midst of all the shutdowns and disruption, our CD in particular has been a poignant reminder of what we’ve been missing, but it’s also been a powerful beacon of hope for our future.

"Now that the restrictions are finally lifting, we’re delighted that Sir James is supporting us as patron as our singers, musicians and congregations spring into life once more, and as we look to the renewed flourishing of our music in the years ahead.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: To have someone of Sir James' calibre helping enhance the already excellent music at our Cathdral is wonderful news. We thank him for taking up this role."