Our Lady’s Dowry: Ely, Day 8

I would first like to ask everyone who reads this blog to take a moment and say a prayer for the repose of the soul of the handmaiden of God, Jane, who passed away yesterday evening.  She was the sister of one of the other tenors in the tour choir.  Also, in your charity, say a prayer for him and his family as well.

Requiescat in pace.

Well, once again we have come to that special time where you get to read about the day and our choir’s tour.  What a rich blessing for you!

By now you must have an idea how the day started out.  Breakfast at 7, choir rehearsal at 8:30, leave for some type of activity at 10, blah, blah, blah.  Rehearsal was rather special this morning, though.  Since today is Saturday the Evensong this evening is well attended and, naturally, we were to sing music that we were rehearsing for the first time ever, or music we hadn’t sung in over a year.  Just to make things exciting, you know.  Now, you have to understand that our choir is extremely accomplished, and I’m not saying this to toot my own horn either because I’m really not that good.  Everyone is highly talented, usually with a music degree, and the kids are phenomenal thanks to Mr. Webster and his peculiar yet effective method of directing.

The choir doing "big face" as part of our warm-ups during rehearsal. Helps stretch the muscles, you see.

I remember my first rehearsal distinctly.  I walked into the choir room at the top of the rectory of Trinity Church dreading it because I grew up listening to Trinity’s recording, Candlelight Carols, which is the Christmas album in my family.  Anyway, I walked in and we warmed up a bit and I picked up the piece of music we were to sing, Sicut Cervus by Palestrina, and we just started singing.  No play through, no individual parts preparation, we just started singing.  It was unlike anything I’d had the pleasure to experience up to that point.  So you can imagine how I felt when we pulled out music I had rehearsed maybe once or twice with the choir and here we were getting ready to sing it that night.  It was miraculous we pulled it off with the panache we did.  Thank you, St. Etheldreda, for helping us out.

After rehearsal I once again headed to Cambridge with some of my fellow choir members who hadn’t gotten enough the day before and our intrepid coach driver, Alan, drove us in and dropped us off near King’s College (I really never get tired of seeing the cows grazing with the famous chapel in the background) and I started wandering around for a while visiting churches and popping into shops.  The highlight was definitely a used bookshop in which I purchased a pocket Book of Common Prayer from 1849 which was cheap and in quite good condition.  Yay, me.  The second fun thing was that I somehow managed to stumble upon the only shop in Cambridge that sold harpsichords.  It was down an alley and I just happened to look down it and see the sign for the music shop.  Naturally I spent a good half hour playing around on it.  It was quite splendid.  I’m including some of the pictures I took while in Cambridge that I hope will interest you.

An amusing corner stone on one of the buildings I passed in Cambridge

This is the Greek Orthodox Church in Cambridge. Not very Byzantine looking, I must admit...

One of the oldest surviving churches in Cambridge, St. Benet's, from 1033 A.D..

After all that we went back to Ely for our pre-Evensong rehearsal which was a bit tense since we had a very definite deadline to get the music as perfect as we could.  The Rector of Trinity Church, Anne Bonnyman, flew in from Boston today to be with the choir for the weekend so the choir also had that in the back of their mind.  Regardless, we managed to pull it off with only a few slight glitches, although we did get to add to our “tour chant” because of one of the slight slip-ups was rather amusing.  And I promise I’ll explain about the chant sometime soon, just not right now as my eyes are already getting droopy.

For those of you who are interested, the music sung tonight was the following:
Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis: Gloucester Service by Herbert Howells
Preces & Responses in the Mixolydian Mode by Richard Webster
Christ Upon the Mountain Peak (Transfiguration Anthem) by Richard Webster
Psalm 37 in Anglican chant by various composers

So that was our day!  Not very exciting to read about, I’m sure, however I can promise you that it was actually exciting for those of us out here.  Looks like you all should have planned to come across the pond with us.  Also, I will be posting a few videos in a bit so keep an eye out for those.  As always, thanks for reading and have a good night.

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