The Planets

Friday, June 3 at 7.00 p.m 
Performer: Mark McDonald, The Cathedral Choirs
Guest Speaker: Alan Batten, Astronomer

Drawing attention to the vastness of the solar system has a way of highlighting humanity’s need to steward its small home carefully. In a virtuosic organ transcription by Peter Sykes, the cathedral’s resident organist, Mark McDonald, takes the audience on a tour from Mars (the bringer of war) to Neptune (the mystic), all in Gustav Holst’s inimitable musical language. Opening the concert and bringing the planets (and space) into focus is renowned astronomer, Dr. Alan Batten. 

Artist Bios

Alan Batten 

Alan Batten was born in Britain in 1933 and educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and the Universities of St Andrews and Manchester. He came to Canada in 1959 on a post-doctoral fellowship at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria and was later invited to join the permanent staff and worked there for over half a century. Having learned to ring in Britain, he was delighted, on his first evening in Victoria, to hear the Cathedral bells and promptly joined the team. He has now been ringing those bells for over 60 years (not continuously!). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1977, and served as a Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union from 1985 to 1991. He has also served as President of both the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the Canadian Astronomical Society. In addition to over 200 professional papers published during his career, he has written three books, the most recent being Our Enigmatic Universe: One Astronomer’s reflections on the Human Condition, published in 2011. In retirement he worked with astronomers in developing countries, and has continued to work on the history of astronomy and the relations of science and religion. 

Mark McDonald

Versatile performer and teacher Mark McDonald joined the Cathedral as the Assistant Director of Music in June 2019. McDonald is internationally recognized for his organ performance and has varied experience as a choral director and teacher.

He holds degrees and diplomas in organ and harpsichord performance from McGill University, Queen’s University and the University of the Arts Bremen. His teachers have included David Cameron, Hans Davidsson, Hans-Ola Ericsson, Hank Knox, John Grew and Harald Vogel. He has taught courses in theory and musicianship at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, the McGill Conservatory, and in church music history the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. He was lead faculty and administrator of the McGill Student Organ Academy and the RCCO Student Organ Academy and he has served on the administration of the Lynnwood Farnam Organ Competition and the highly acclaimed Canadian International Organ Competition.

Spending many of his formative years as a musician in Montreal, Mark has held positions at the Church of St. James the Apostle, Christ Church Cathedral, St. James United Church and Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom. He moved to the west coast of Canada in 2019 to serve as the Assistant Director of Music at Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral and in 2021 was appointed Instructor of Organ at the University of VIctoria.