IN THE week the UK was remembering the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, there were few more appropriate places to be in Scotland than St Andrews. On the actual anniversary itself, the quin-centenary of the day that the monk Martin Luther posted his 95 theses for debate on the door of the church in Wittenberg, former Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams was preaching in THE St Salvator’s, the chapel of St Andrews University. You may have heard him speaking about the legacy and meaning of the Reformation earlier the same day on BBC Radio 4’s today programme. Ten days previously, a service from the chapel had been broadcast as the same network’s Sunday Worship, during which The Very Revd Ian Bradley, Professor of Cultural and Spiritual History at the university, spoke compellingly about the martyrdom of those from both the Catholic and Protestant sides during what was altogether more horrific a sequence of actions than might properly BE described as a “debate”, and which changed Scotland from a Catholic to a Protestant country in less than half a century. It has been fascinating to hear how the long view of the Reformation has always been couched in terms of reconciliation – in marked contrast to almost everything else that is being reported in the news of today.

Before it was destroyed during the violent events of the Reformation, the huge Cathedral of St Andrews must have been an astonishing building – a sense of the scale of it is still very easy to grasp from the ruins. 150 years in the building, it was Scotland’s chief place of pilgrimage, and consequently the epicentre of the corruption in the church that Luther and his followers were rebelling against. Small wonder that it was here that men were put to death for public exhibition in gruesome fashion, but equally it is a place where aspects of humanity and worship that could not be so easily grabbed and destroyed survive and thrive.

The Reformation anniversary events coincided with the university’s annual celebration of singing, St Andrews Voices, a long weekend of diverse music-making that this year embraced everything from the witty songs of Fascinating Aida’s Dillie Keane, via a Norwegian early music ensemble to tenor Jamie MacDougall’s Bardic Trio with harp and guitar and his new Story-Tellers recital group.

I made my own pilgrimage to St Andrews to catch two events that spoke to the earliest years of my own musical education. When I was at primary school my father took me to a concert by The Swingle Singers at the Usher Hall, at a time when their jazzy vocalese versions of Bach were a regular classy addition to Saturday evening television variety shows, and the latest version of The Swingles, as they now style themselves, were in residence at the festival. So too was Dame Emma Kirkby, whose pure soprano tones had been a feature of the first recordings I bought of the new discipline of “period” performance, when she sang with the Taverner Choir under Andrew Parrott and the Academy of Ancient Music and Christopher Hogwood.

The Swingles, now a smaller septet but adept at using sampling and looping technology to magnify their choral reach, still sing Corelli in the style of their predessors, but their repertoire also drew on Afghan, Finnish and Bulgarian sources, alongside The Beatles, the movie The Fifth Element, and Astor Piazolla. They headlined a bill that also featured student a cappella groups and young people The Swingles had been working with at Beath High School and Lawhead Primary. Of the young folk, the youngest had the best choreography.

Dame Emma and her quartet of professional singers and lutenists were joined by vocal scholars from the university in a programme of songs by John Dowland and his contemporaries that stayed firmly on the secular side of the troubled 16th century, but the following morning at St Salvator’s Luther’s Reformation had its own St ANDREWS Voices celebration. The service included hymns written by Luther and his contemporaries as well as Bach’s Cantata 150, with Kirkby singing the soprano aria.

In a more peaceful St Andrews, its beautiful concluding Chaconne is how I am sure that the reforming monk would like to hear his legacy remembered.