St. Peter’s Choir is in Residence!
by Jay Newlin
Every member of St. Peter’s Choir will remember Monday, August 7, 2017 for the rest of their life. While it was a whirlwind, we had a wonderful first day as the Choir-In-Residence at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.
We started with a guided tour of the cathedral. Even though worship has been occurring in this location for 1,400+ years, the current edifice replaced a medieval cathedral which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Sir Christopher Wren, mathematician, astronomer, and engineer, was the principal architect of this building (and of more than 50 other churches in London!). It is an architectural wonder: from its dome (which actually is two domes [inner and outer] separated by a conical structure which bears the weight of the outer dome) to the floating staircase of the Dean’s Entrance. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors stop in each day to admire its beauty and grandeur.
St. Paul’s isn’t just a magnificent building; it’s also an active place of prayer and worship. An intercessory prayer is said hourly, gently interrupting the flow of the tours. Services such as Matins (in the morning) and Evensong are more formal times of worship. Since it’s the Cathedral of London, St. Paul’s hosts weddings (Prince Charles and Princess Diana) and some state funerals (Nelson, Wellington, and Churchill). When we sing Evensong every afternoon, we’re continuing the rich tradition of worship in this space.
The 1.5-hour tour gave us way too many insights into the building, its history, and some of its “operations” to share in a simple post. Be sure to ask us about some of the other details we learned when you see us back home.
After grabbing lunch, the choir gathered outside the crypt entrance and entered as a group. We all now have badges (stickers) to identify us as the “Visiting Choir” and to grant us access as “temporary staff” of the cathedral. We were met and ushered to the beautiful Choir Room (in the crypt of the cathedral) which will be our base of operations for the rest of the week. Since St. Peter’s is in the process of building a new parish house with a new choir room, some of us are taking notes of features that we especially like.
The afternoon “rushed by” as we warmed up and rehearsed in the crypt. Choir members, vestments, and music all made the trek from Philadelphia to London without any glitches or anything missing (a minor miracle for so many details to work out)!
Before we knew it, the time had come to move from the crypt to the Floor of the Cathedral to rehearse in our “new” space: the Quire. The first musical sounds that we made reminded us of the challenges – and wonder – of singing in this space. Because it’s constructed of so much limestone and is so cavernous, the nave has an echo that can last for 7-10 seconds! It was quickly obvious that Dr. Roland took that into account when determining our repertoire, and the sounds that we produced during rehearsal literally stopped some tourists in their tracks: they sat down and enjoyed listening to our rehearsal.
St. Paul’s is very exacting and intentional about every movement and action during worship, so two of the Virgers rehearsed our entrances and exits, our bows, and all the movements required during Evensong.
Before we could think about it, the time had come to gather in the Dean’s Aisle for the Vestry Prayer and for our first Evensong to begin. While nerves are normal for all performers, Dr. Roland has been so carefully preparing us for this trip and leading us in rehearsing this music that any true nervousness or anxiety wasn’t there. Instead, we settled into our typical mindset of preparedness for worship – if perhaps a bit excited because of WHERE we were worshiping.
Our preparation and rehearsal “paid off:” From the Cantoris side of the Quire, many of us could see that the Dean was definitely wrapped up in the music and prayers. We could all feel that the service was moving along quite beautifully. And suddenly…we had finished! Only 34 minutes for our first Evensong!
We exited the cathedral through a maze of passageways of the crypt and an adjoining underground garage, coming up to applauding Groupies! They told us how wonderful we sounded in that space and how moving the service was. Claire’s mum, Sadie, even told us that we “sounded like an English choir,” which is high praise from someone born and raised in England! We have set a high bar to achieve each day this week…
Remember that we sing Evensong at 5 PM London time, which is Noon in Philadelphia. Check out the first blog entry for an Order for Noonday Prayer. If you’d like to pray along with us, here’s what’s coming up:
Tuesday, August 8
- Psalms 97 and 98 [https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=369178500]
- Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Herbert Sumsion
- Anthem, “King of Glory, King of Piece” by T. Frederick H. Candlyn
Wednesday, August 9
- Psalm 102:15-28 [https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=369178751]
- Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Vernon Williams
- Anthem, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” by Edward C. Bairstow
August 13, 2017
August 13, 2017