Bendigo Cathedral organist joins ACU Centre for Liturgy

Music has always been in Dr Paul Taylor’s blood, but it was inside his local parish church that he developed a fascination for the pipe organ.

As a child, Dr Taylor would watch the organists from St Kilian’s and Sacred Heart Cathedral parishes playing either the electronic Yamaha organ or the 1872 German beauty falling apart in the rear galley.

“I used to re-enact the whole scene (at home), a bit like playing ‘Mass’ with other family members,” Dr Taylor said.

“I loved listening to the tone colours the organists chose and the harmonies they employed for the hymns.”

What started as pretend play eventually became a hobby, and then a career. After completing degrees in music and eventually liturgy, Dr Taylor has become one of Australia’s most respected liturgical musicians. He has worked in music ministry in the parish communities of Flemington, St Patrick’s Cathedral Melbourne, and in Bendigo since 2020, and served as Executive Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Council’s Commission for Liturgy and of the National Liturgical Council.

Now Dr Taylor brings his longstanding reputation as a musician and liturgist to the ACU Centre for Liturgy as the new Assistant Director.

Dr Taylor will support the Centre’s suite of formation and educational resources, including their online courses, seminars, and regular events, as well as facilitating discussions on the Liturgy Nexus online networks.

Having turned a childhood hobby into a professional career in ministry, Dr Taylor said the Church was now being called to rethink how it engaged with young people to ensure the traditions of the faith continued into the next generation.

“We need to work at ways to attract young people in general to our churches in order to enthuse them for ministry in the church, which can be enormously satisfying, even if the work requires dedication and ongoing practice,” Dr Taylor said. 

“The key thing is formation, and this is where the ACU Centre for Liturgy can play a vital role, by providing liturgical formation opportunities and empowering people to use their God-given talents for service in the Christian community.”

Dr Taylor’s association with ACU can be traced back to the university’s beginnings, when he was a music student at the Institute of Catholic Education, which later became the ACU Melbourne campus.

“I remember being told that I was actually difficult to teach because I could play by ear, the upshot being that I wouldn’t always play what was printed but what I wanted to hear,” Dr Taylor said.

“However, it was only later that I realised, from Roger Heagney during my Harmony and Counterpoint classes at ACU, that playing by ear is very useful in ensemble settings, particularly when it comes to teaching and improvisation.”

Dr Taylor then completed a doctorate at ACU in 2010, under Dr Dianne Gome, looking at the perception and understanding of chant within the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

While the so-called liturgy wars continue to debate the styles or genre of music in the post-conciliar Church, Dr Taylor said the biggest misconception about music in the liturgy was that it was an optional extra, rather than an integral part of the liturgical celebration.

“I think we would do well to recall that the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s invited Catholics to view the Mass not just as solemn canonical obligation and key sacramental occasion – but what the ritual books refer to as a celebration of the Eucharist – a celebration of Christ’s paschal mystery and triumph of life over death, light out of darkness,” Dr Taylor said. 

“And just as we participate fully in secular celebrations like national days, remembrance days, sporting events, and birthday celebrations with music and singing, during the liturgy, singing helps to lift our words, our offerings of prayers, of praise, thanks and intercession to God, to a higher spiritual level, beyond everyday speech.”

Professor Clare Johnson said Dr Taylor was a welcome addition to the ACU Centre for Liturgy.

“Dr Paul Taylor brings to the Centre a wealth of knowledge about the Catholic Church’s liturgical life, both as a trained church musician in his own right, and as a liturgist who has served the Church at a national level under the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference,” Professor Johnson said.

“The expertise and experience Dr Taylor has garnered over decades of study and research of the liturgy will be of immense value to liturgists and ministers around this country.

“I look forward to working with Dr Taylor as the Centre for Liturgy continues to support specialised expertise to every level of ministry in Australia.”


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