Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Choir and Orchestra

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Template:Use New Zealand English Template:Infobox orchestra The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Choir and Orchestra (CBS) is a professional choir and orchestra based in Christchurch, New Zealand. They are the primary music providers for Masses at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral. Before the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, they were based at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The CBS is an affiliate of the RSCM New Zealand Canterbury Branch.[1]


The first formation of a choir, under the leadership of Don Whelan, was at Christ The King, Burnside. Whelan started working with Dutch immigrants, who come from a choral culture, understood the art of singing in parts well. Whelan soon became a well-trained organist, organising cantors and the choir. Before Easter 1969, an organist was needed for the services at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Whelan took this opportunity and the CBS Choir was formed.[2]

During their first international tour to Europe in 1990–1991, the CBS was given status as cultural ambassadors by the New Zealand Government. During their third European tour, the choir were invited to lead the singing during the Papal Midnight Mass in celebration of the inauguration the Holy Year of Jubilee [3]

Canterbury Earthquakes

The Cathedral with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission Chapel (later demolished in 2011) in the background in 2009
Damage caused by the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake

Due to the 2010 Canterbury Earthquake, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was badly damaged, leading it to be closed for the foreseeable future. Masses moved next door to the chapel. During the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, the cathedral partially collapsed, as well as the chapel and music center being badly damaged and demolished afterwards.

The CBS built a new state of the art facility at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in which to house their music library, offices and a practice hall.

Post-Earthquake Years

Despite the Canterbury Earthquakes, the choir and orchestra were still able to go ahead with their annual New Zealand tours, as well as going on their first Asian tour in 2012 and their fifth Australian and European tours in 2013 and 2015, respectively.[3]

In October 2019, members and associates of the CBS celebrated 50 years under the leadership of Don Whelan, with a luncheon at the Rydges Hotel in Central Christchurch.[4][5]

Coronavirus Pandemic

In March 2020, the Catholic bishops of New Zealand ordered the temporary suspension of Masses and churches to be temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in NZ.[6] Shortly afterwards, the rest of the CBS program was halted due to the national lockdown. The Wednesdays at One music programme, concerts[7], annual music events,[8] and the appearances at Masses were suspended for the first time in its history. On 14 June, the CBS was able to begin their program, celebrating the Cathedral's feast of Corpus Christi. The Wednesdays at One music programme resumed in July 2020.

Concert Program

Wednesdays at One is a weekly concert series hosted by the CBS.[9] This entails local and national musicians of all ages to perform the works of many composers on many different instruments. Annual concerts of Bach's St John Passion and Handel's Messiah are performed on Good Friday and in mid-December, respectively.[10][11] In June, during the Diocese's Feast Day (Cathedral Feast of Corpus Christi) celebrations, a concert is given, where usually a Mass is performed. In 2019, John Ritchie's Missa Corpus Christi was performed, as well as MacMillan's Hymn to the Blessed Sacrament and Mendelssohn's Verleih uns Frieden.[12]

On the first Sunday of each month (excluding January), orchestral Masses are performed with the choir. Every other Sunday, the choir sings contemporary, polyphonic, and Gregorian chant compositions. Orchestral Masses with the choir are also performed at the Christmas Vigil and Midnight Mass.[12]

Musical Directors

Assistant Musical Directors

  • 2018: Simon Mace
  • 2019 – present: Nicholas Sutcliffe[13]


  • – present: Wally Enright[13]

List of Tours


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  • 2004: Greymouth
  • 2005: Addington and Queenstown
  • 2006: Blenheim and Nelson
  • 2008: Hokitika
  • 2009: Waimate and Timaru
  • 2010: Wellington
  • 2011: Westport
  • 2012: Dunedin
  • 2014: Napier and Hastings
  • 2015: Geraldine and Ashburton
  • 2016: Blenhiem and Nelson
  • 2018: Wellington
  • 2019: Auckland

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  • 1988: 1st Australian Tour - Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
  • 1990–1991: 1st European Tour - San Francisco, Westminster, Dublin, Paris, Chartres, Aachen, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Dresden, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Venice, Florence and Rome.
  • 1994–1995: 2nd European Tour - St Petersburg, Moscow, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Prague, Milan, Lucerne, Barcelona, Toledo and Paris.
  • 1996: 2nd Australian Tour - Melbourne, Bendigo, Canberra, Goulburn and Sydney.
  • 1999–2000: 3rd European Tour - Egypt, the Holy Land, Turkey, Florence, Venice, Eisenstadt, Cologne, Haarlem, Brussels, London, Vienna and Vatican City.
  • 2001: 3rd Australian Tour - Adelaide, Ballarat and Melbourne.
  • 2007: Americas Tour - Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Cuzco, Lima, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Toronto and Montreal.
  • 2007: 4th Australian Tour - Sydney, Southport and Brisbane.
  • 2009–2010: 4th European Tour - Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Vilnus, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Seville, Granada and Malaga.
  • 2012: Asian Tour - Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo.
  • 2013: 5th Australian Tour - Melbourne
  • 2015: 5th European Tour - Los Angeles (USA), Chelmsford, Westminster, Dublin, Kilkenny, Killarney, Galway, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham.
  • 2017: 6th Australian Tour - Sydney

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Further Readings

CBS Choir and Orchestra Articles - New Zealand National Library


  1. "Helping refugees – RSCM New Zealand" (in en-US). 
  2. "Don Whelan, CBS Music Director, celebrates 50 years of service" (in en-US). 2019-10-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "CBS Music - Overseas". 
  4. "Don Whelan, CBS Music Director, celebrates 50 years of service" (in en-US). 2019-10-26. 
  5. "50 years of music ministry honoured" (in en-US). 2019-12-16. 
  6. "Temporary suspension of all Masses due to Covid-19 coronavirus" (in en-NZ). 
  7. "CANCELLED - Bach St John Passion" (in en-GB). 
  8. Brennan, Christine. "CBS Choir & Orchestra – Bach's St John Passion – Cancelled! | Canterbury Choral Music" (in en-US). 
  9. "CBS Music - Wednesdays at One". 
  10. "CBS Music - Concerts". 
  11. "CBS Music - Bach and Handel". 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "CBS Music - Music Lists". 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "CBS Music - Contacts". 

External Links

Official Website

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