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The day we sang for Pope Benedict

AMANDA CONNELLY shares her memories ahead of the the anniversary of the Holy Father’s visit to Scotland

HAVING the Pope pay a visit about half an hour away from your home is a rare thing indeed. Having the opportunity to actually sing for the Holy Father takes it to a whole new level. As we approach the ­anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s visit to Scotland in September 2010, it is these two rare, but very fond memories that come to my mind as ­Scotland prepares to mark seven years since the Holy Father celebrated Mass in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park.

My journey towards singing for Pope Benedict began in my third year at ­Taylor High School, with a group of girls in our music class. Taylor High has a very active and successful music department, and are often seen singing at a number of high-profile events and introducing new music for soloists and choir throughout the school year.

As two of the girls in our music class sat with their guitars and composed a hymn about their beliefs, our Papal hymn, Faith, was born. Simply a draft at this stage and something we could all sing along to, and perhaps a new ­addition for our school Masses, the group of us learned our parts and we included instrumentalists.

But in true Taylor High School music department style, Faith was not to remain simply a song to be kept within the walls of our school. You can ­imagine the slack-jawed looks when the head of department and all-round pianist, ­conductor and musical director Fiona Cannon announced to us that some strings had been pulled.

Our hymn, in a few short months, would see us take centre stage at the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict to Scotland in Bellahouston Park, in front of thousands of people!


After much shrieking in a style typical of 15 and 16-year-old girls, it was time to get down to work. Preparing to sing for the head of the Catholic Church doesn’t come without some nerves and a lot of practice.

The lead-up to the event was filled with a lot of hustle and bustle, but a lot of fun too.

We had the opportunity to record Faith in our school’s recording studio, and even made a music video to go along with it, shot by the school ­technician, Mr Stewart, with footage in Carfin Grotto and in and around the school, and helped by music teacher Suzanne Evans.

Admittedly, while it’s lovely to have those memories to look back on of our time at Taylor, and the archived clips featured in the Grotto of days gone by, looking back at your 16-year-old self on camera is perhaps not something you want to do every day.

Let’s just say that the school uniform fashion, hair and makeup choices in 2010 were somewhat questionable, and will hopefully not be making a ­comeback any time soon.

Our music video was not our only turn on-screen: some STV reporters, having heard about our small school’s big ­performance, made a visit to the     school one day. A spur-of-the-moment decision and a couple of questions later, I found my face plastered all over the evening news.

Seemingly everyone in Carfin and at the chapel likes to tune in to STV at six o’clock, judging by the number of people that commented on what, in ­hindsight, was my first paddle in the waters of press and media.

Eventually, all the weeks and months of anticipation led up to the big day itself, when in a few short hours we would see the Pope and be singing on the stage. After sound checks in the park the day before, it was staggering to see the number of people flocking to their different allocated places in the park—a good few hours before the Mass was to even begin.

We got ourselves ready in one of the performers’ tents at the back of the stage, and even caught a glimpse of Michelle McManus and Susan Boyle. Last-minute checks for long ties and top buttons ­fastened were held, before we got our call to go on stage.

Led by one of our French teachers, Honor Miller, a very accomplished soprano, and Ms Cannon conducting at the front, legs were shaking as we made our way on to the stage in front of the thousands gathered there in anticipation of seeing the Pope. As we heard the opening chords strike up, we all got into the swing of it, and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

I remember seeing the wash of school uniforms and parishioners from across the country young and old alike waiting there with expectant faces for the Holy Father, and that was a truly incredible sight.

There was a very special atmosphere that day. I had never seen such a large gathering of Catholics from all walks of life, some even the same age as myself, who were all so excited, enthused and happy to be celebrating their Faith. A momentous occasion indeed and a real turning point in my own Faith journey.


We were lucky enough to have seats at the front of the crowds, meaning we could see ­everything that was going on during the Mass and get a glimpse of the Pope too. It proved to be a very beautiful occasion for me, far more so than I ever expected it to be.

There were familiar connections as I spotted my own parish priest at the time concelebrating on the altar alongside the Pope, and one of the young parishioners from Carfin taking up the gifts to the Holy Father as part of the offertory ­procession.

It was highly emotional to see these personal associations, and to bask in the sense of pride and togetherness with which Catholics had made the effort to turn out in their droves in witness to their Faith, in a world where perhaps Faith and religion is not always so valued.

Seven years on, it’s incredible to think that a group of girls from a small school in Motherwell were given such a

fantastic opportunity and were able to bear witness to such an incredible     piece of history in the life of the Church in Scotland.

The anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland never fails to bring back memories of a fantastic time at a wonderful school, and the amazing sense of togetherness in Faith in which we were able to take part on that special day.

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