A musical Oratory to commemorate the 206th Anniversary of the Birth of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1801-1890, was held at the Birmingham Oratory, on 20 February, writes Peter Jennings. Newman was born in the City of London on 21 February 1801 and died in the Oratory House, at Edgbaston, on 11 August 1890. He was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 22 January 1991. The term "Musical Oratory" is derived from the custom of St Philip Neri, 1515-1595, the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, to hold little services for his followers. Fr Gregory Winterton, former Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, and Vice Chairman of the Friends of Cardinal Newman, introduced the items during the Musical Oratory in three parts: instrumental music by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, played by the Nero String Quartet; motets by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Elgar beautifully sung by the Oratory Choir; hymns sung by the congregation, concluding with Praise to the Holiest, taken from the poem, The Dream of Gerontius by Cardinal Newman. Two insightful and fascinating talks, Newman and Music, were given by Miss Rosemarie Darby, Director of Music at the church of the Holy Name in Manchester. She explained that Newman was given a violin at the age of ten by his father and started lessons on 25 February, four days after his birthday. She said: "Newman seems to have made prodigious progress as he was beginning to play duets by 21 April. His younger brothers, Frank and Charles also learned to play as he relates how they would play trios together, with his sister Jemima playing the piano. The pleasure that Newman derived from performing with others was to last throughout his life." Miss Darby concluded her first talk: "On 2 February 1848 Newman established the Oratory here in Birmingham. The inspiration of St Philip was quickly recognised in Newman's aims and efforts to make music one of the special characteristics of the Oratory. His knowledge of sacred music and his theories on it as a motivating force in attracting souls, combined with his own practical efforts in performing and composing proved to be a strong and lasting influence on the Oratory in England." Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause gave a short update on the progress of the Cause before reading out the names of the sick for whom prayers had been requested, through the intercession of Cardinal Newman. He then led the prayer for Newman's beatification.
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