For This Reason - diocese's centenary anthem launches today
The Diocese of Swansea and Brecon is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and today marks the launch of its centenary anthem For This Reason.
Composed by Mal Pope, and featuring a host of famous names, a performance of the anthem will be one of the highlights at September’s centenary celebration festival at the Royal Welsh Showground.
Mal, who is celebrating 50 years in music this year, said: “It was late last year that I got an email from Mandy Bayton, the diocese’s director of mission and evangelism, asking if I could write a new anthem for such a special year in the life of the diocese.
“As always with writing a song you need to find the way in, the key which opens up everything else and I thought I’d better do some research.
“In the bishop’s message at the start of the year he was keen that the celebration should be one full of joy and thanksgiving and that the diocese should remember how blessed it had been during those 100 years.
“The bishop was keen that everyone should get involved. His team had come up with 100 ideas to mark the centenary - some were aimed at the churches themselves, others for individuals, children and youth. Ideas included raising £100 for a local charity, plant 100 trees, sending 100 thank you cards to people in the community, taking on a 100-mile prayer walk. It also included smaller deeds like offering to mow someone’s lawn or donating blood for the first time. So it was obvious that the anthem had to be thankful.”
For This Reason is not the first time Mal has been involved in a celebration anthem.
The Warm Wind project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Swansea’s city status brought together choirs from Singapore, India and the USA and last year’s Platinum Jubilee anthem Rise Up and Serve had contributions from all over the Commonwealth, but the inspiration for For This Reason came from closer to home.
“It was as we were talking about the centenary festival at the Royal Welsh Showground that I remembered, years ago, when I was a young man, I had been invited to sing there for a special event honouring Bishop Desmond Tutu.
“I looked online and found out the service had been broadcast on BBC One on 31st August, 1986. Looking at the credits I saw that the director was an old friend so I sent him a message explaining what I was looking for and wondering if he had a recording of any sort and day or so later a VHS arrived with the full service.”
The text for Bishop Tutu’s message that day was Ephesians 3:14-21:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[ in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
“There it all was - family and generations and thankfulness,” Mal said. “I sent Mandy a simple demo and the lyrics and I started trying to work out how we get as many people involved as possible.”
To get the ball rolling, Mal asked some friends to join together as a choir and also to take some lines in the song.
“Steve Balsamo, Kev Johns, Lorraine King, Camille Meskill and Lisa Marie Williams all popped around and sounded wonderful blended together,” he said.
“I’ve always loved Brecon Cathedral, which also celebrates its centenary this year, so I really wanted the choir and cathedral organ to be central to the recording. With the help of Andrew and David Griffiths we turned up with some equipment and captured their glorious sound in that wonderful building.
“We next visited the Swansea U3A Ukulele Big Band under the direction of Andy Skilling who added their harp-like sound to the mix, before finally travelling to Cardiff to the home of the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. It had always been our intention to add a version of the diocesan prayer to the anthem and we could think of no one better fitted to sharing that prayer on our recording than Rowan.”
The lyrics and background track have been made available for school, choirs and individuals across the diocese to take part and there will be a special performance at the centenary celebration festival, which takes place on September 9.
The festival, which will be hosted by Kev Johns, will also feature performances by Only Men Aloud, Guvna B, Steve Balsamo, Who’s Molly, Ify Iwobi, and Builth Wells Male Voice Choir.
Mandy Bayton said: “As a diocese we believe we have much to thank God for, so we want to celebrate our centenary by celebrating God’s goodness and faithfulness. Humans are creatures who love a celebration – people love coming together to celebrate, be it winning a rugby game or a football match, a birthday, a wedding or the coronation of a king.
“Strangers become friends at celebrations. We wanted our free centenary celebration festival to bring people from across Wales to celebrate together. It’s free because we don’t want cost to exclude anyone, we simply want people to have a good time on us and to bring some joy into lives that may be having a bit of a tough time at the moment.”
The centenary festival takes place at the Royal Welsh Showground on Saturday, September 9 and you can book your free tickets here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/swansea-brecon-diocese-centenary-celebration-festival-tickets-604814565647
Lyrics and backing tracks for For This Reason are available here https://swanseaandbrecon.churchinwales.org.uk/en/join-the-dioceses-centenary-celebrations/for-this-reason-resources/