Vicariate for Faith & Mission

Diocesan Church Music Association

Liturgy & Prayer

Diocesan Church Music Association (DCMA)

Music makes the world of difference to our lives especially in our worship. In Mass our hearts and voices blend with the music of heaven. Vatican II recognised and re-emphasised this, encouraging us to realise that music is an integral part of the Mass.

The Diocesan Church Music Association (DCMA) is a body of volunteer musicians who are here to encourage and promote best practice and develop musical skills and repertoire across the Diocese. The DCMA aims to offer practical help and guidance to parish musicians, considering that each parish will have its own musical ‘house-style’. This may be a traditional choir-and-organ setup, an instrumental group, a praise & worship band, or perhaps unaccompanied singing. Whatever the genre of music, it still fulfils the same important function in the Mass!

'Singing elevates the soul to listen to the Spirit'

Pope Francis


How the DCMA can support parish music across the Diocese

The DCMA can offer assistance or training in a number of different areas. We’re always open to suggestions as to how we can provide support, so please get in touch. You will find our contact details further down the page.

While much of the joy of liturgical music is in its familiarity and inclusiveness, new material is being written all the time (hymn books can date quite quickly) and older material is forever being rediscovered. The DCMA periodically run workshops and events to introduce new material; new Mass settings, psalms and antiphons, hymns, that hopefully will in turn become the familiar music of the future.

Practical liturgical music in a parish involves a number of very specific skills, whether these are specific musical techniques, or skills required whilst being in a leadership role. Giving a clear and musical account of the responsorial psalm from the ambo, providing a sensitive guitar accompaniment, or getting to grips with the complexities of the pipe organ are all topics that members of the DCMA can assist with via workshops and tutorials.

Many people write music for use in their own parishes (and beyond). The DCMA host occasional events for people to share and discuss their own compositions in a supportive and positive environment.

The DCMA can provide or signpost material to help parish musicians in planning liturgical music. Materials are selected to help ensure that best practice is followed in terms of how the Mass is sung with the emphasis being on ‘singing the Mass’ rather than just ‘singing at Mass’.

The whole area of copyright and licensing can appear very daunting, however, DCMA members have a wealth of experience with this and can help parish musicians understand the basic principles of copyright and how it applies to different styles and genres of music, and the different licensing schemes in operation.

Everyone working in a music ministry, volunteer or professional, can sometimes feel isolated, misunderstood, or undervalued. The DCMA aims to foster an active and inclusive network of musicians across the diocese, offering mutual support and encouragement, and a place to exchange ideas and material. Music is essentially a collaborative and social activity, and everyone appreciates the chance to get together.

Join Our Mailing List

Whether you’re an active member of your parish music ministry or are just keen to find out about different church music events happening across the Diocese you are warmly invited to join our mailing list.

DCMA Resources

Meet the Team

Alison McLean

I am the music director at St Cuthbert’s, Durham and the current chair of the Diocesan Church Music Association. We know that the past two years, during the pandemic, have been really tough for church musicians, so if there is any support you need, whether it is in trying to get your music ministry up and running again, or you simply want to learn some new repertoire, do get in touch. We would love to help you in any way we can.

Helen Schofield

I am a member of the choir at St Cuthbert’s parish in Durham. I have been a choir member for quite a number of years and it has been uplifting to see how the repertoire of our congregation has increased over time as new Mass settings, chants or hymns have gradually been introduced. I think that after the pandemic it is important to retain and support church musicians, and to re-energise congregations in this vital element of worship.

Linda Donachie

I am a guitar and ukulele playing member of St Joseph’s Music Group in the Parish of the Durham Martyrs, Durham City. Before the pandemic we were a thriving ‘folk style‘ music group and are now in the process of rebuilding. I enjoy all music styles but prefer to keep it simple and accessible. I would love to see more young people involved in church music.

Frances Simmons

I am the secretary of the Diocesan Church Music Association. I have been part of the DCMA since it formed in the 1980s, much of that time as secretary.

I have been involved in church music since I made up my first psalm response at the age of seven and then joined the choir when I went to secondary school. All these years later I am still singing in a choir, and I am still writing music for the liturgy. I am now a member of the Composer’s Group of the Society of St Gregory (the national society for music and liturgy in the UK).

I am passionate about the full, active and conscious participation of all the faithful, as urged by Vatican II, and about the role that good liturgical music has to play in this. My hope and dream is that, someday soon, every parish in the Diocese will ‘sing the Mass’ as opposed to ‘singing at Mass’ and the DCMA is here to support parishes to achieve just that.

Contact Us

Chairperson: Alison McLean
Secretary: Frances Simmons

How to contact the DCMA:


Alison Mclean: 0191 371 9184
Frances Simmons: 01325 308045