Choir at the Cathedral

Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir members with Bishop Shane Mackinlay after 11am Mass on Passion/Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021. Photo:  Francine Mills & Sarah GouldHISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir is more than 100 years old, having been the Pro-Cathedral Choir of St Kilian’s Church, Bendigo, which then became the Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir in 1901. Rev. Dr Henry Backhaus began a choir at St Kilian’s Church, in 1857, when the church was dedicated by Bishop Goold, OSA. It would appear that this choir became the choir which continued to become the pro-cathedral choir when Martin Crane, OSA was appointed the first Bishop of Sandhurst, and then became the Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir when they moved from St Kilian’s to sing the liturgy at the newly opened cathedral in September 1901. We know that Fr Henry Backhaus conducted the choir at St Kilian’s, giving performances of Cherubini’s Requiem Mass and Haydn’s Masses.


To breathe new life into the Choir, Mr John Hogan (Organist and Director of Music, 1980-2020), together with Bishop Noel Daly (1979-1999), instituted a system of Choir Scholarships in 1981. Since then, there have been choir scholarships so that talented young Catholic students attending a Catholic school in Bendigo may be encouraged to become part of the Choir. Originally the Cathedral Choir sang once a month. Now it sings each Sunday except for school holidays.

The repertoire ranges from Gregorian Chant to modern music specially written for the Choir. The aim is to keep the best of the past tradition alive and to sing the best of today’s liturgical music. The music ministry is not meant to be a performance but more a way of praying, leading the assembly to a deeper appreciation of God’s presence. The Choir’s role is to clothe the liturgical texts and to accompany the liturgical action with the hope of offering due praise to God and edification for God’s people at prayer.

Source: Adapted from 150 Years of Harmony: The Choir and Organists of Sacred Heart Cathedral Bendigo (1857-2012) by John F. Hogan (Bendigo: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 2012).

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