Paisley Abbey, founded in 1163, may claim to be unique in many respects. It was literally the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty. Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce, was born on the premises. His mother, Princess Marjory, fell off her horse when coming to the Abbey and was found to be dead. By a posthumous operation, the child was delivered and lived to become the first of the Stewart Kings.
When the monks disappeared before the Reformation, the Abbey became the Parish Church of Paisley. The endowments of some of the altars were used to found the Grammar school. It had two departments : the ‘Gramar Schule’ and the ‘Sang Schule’ which indicates some kind of continuation of choral services.
In 1807 a musician and composer well-known in Scotland, R.A. Smith, was in charge of the Abbey’s music. The Abbey Band, as the choir was called, reached such a pitch of excellence, that it became famed throughout the country. This was at a time when church music in Scotland was at a particularly low ebb. The Abbey authorities complained that, owing to the quality of the Band, the congregation had ceased to sing.
A feature of the music in the Abbey, was the Boys Choir founded in around 1900. By 1928, just after the restoration of the Abbey was complete, the singers were robed. The choir now numbers around thirty six and the treble line of sixteen voices consists of boys and girls.
The Sunday 11am service is, generally, fully choral with a Communion Setting and anthem on the first and third Sundays of each month and morning canticles and anthem on other Sundays. On Easter and Christmas mornings, the choir is joined by an orchestra. Evensong or Compline is sung on the second Sunday of the month at 4pm. The repertoire is extensive. A major choral work, or works, is performed, at least once a year.