Monday, 1 September 2008

Winchester Choir Week

So the reason for the week's silence is that I've been in Winchester with the choir, singing the evening services in the Cathedral. If you're interested, the programme is here.

We've been doing this for over 10 years now, but Winchester Cathedral is one of my favourite buildings in which to sing. We actually did Choral Evensong each evening at 5.30 with Wednesday off, and Mattins, Eucharist and Evensong on Sunday. With a good 3 hours rehearsal each day, it's quite tiring, but we absolutely love it.

The drive down was easy and fast, but as we approached our destination, I remembered I'd not packed my black shoes (the men wear dark suits), so the first thing to do after lunch was to buy some. Of course, with only half an hour to locate and purchase said items, I made a bad choice and the result was sore feet during all the services for the rest of the week. I'll have to get them stretched.

High points were Monday's Purcell Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis, and Tuesday's Lord, let me know mine end by Maurice Green. Both fabulous pieces which we did rather well. Sadly, the week was marred by some really grim singing in the Mattins, particularly the psalm, which went badly wrong. And for no obvious reason. We're good at psalms, and people comment on the fact that they can hear the words. But my goodness, the Mattins psalm was dire. Fortunately, it was also very short!

We stayed in Sparsholt Agricultural College just outside Winchester, sleeping in student accommodation which was a lot more comfy than I remember from my uni days. The food in the refectory was very acceptable, too. For those who listen to BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time, the GQT Potting Shed is located in the grounds here.

But best of all was the eating out. In Sparsholt village is an excellent pub called the Plough, where you get wonderful food and where they have a pretty good wine list, too. And it's within walking distance of the college. We had lunch there twice. First time I had a smoked pigeon and bacon salad; second time was slow roasted belly of pork which was gorgeous and at least twice as much as I needed.

In Winchester itself, we ate lunch twice in the Old Vine, which faces onto the Cathedral Close. Fried chorizo with patatas bravas and a chilli dip. So good, I had it both times!

Actually, I say the food was the best, but really, the company was the best. What a pleasure to be able to spend an extended period doing something you love in the company of some really good friends. Two of the choir were among the previous Saturday's dinner party guests, and at one point I had my four favourite women in the car with me! Oh yes, very good indeed!

The drive home yesterday was less good. Jane had very kindly driven us home in my car after the choir dinner on Wednesday (so I could drink), but the tiddly roads give little opportunity to give the car any welly, particularly at night, so I offered to let her drive us home from Winchester to Royston, thinking that the motorways would allow her to floor the throttle and see what the car would do.

Sadly, not only was the weather completely foul, with lots of really heavy rain and standing water on the road, but the traffic was heavy, and there had been a crash on the M25 which had damaged the road surface. Two lanes were closed, and for mile after mile we just crawled along. A drive which had taken an hour and three quarters on the way down took four and a half on the way back. Gruesome. Poor old Jane took it in good spirit, but I'll have to find another opportunity to let her play!

So I leave you with some phone snaps of a spectacular tapestry by Alice Kettle, which we saw in the Library. We are complete ignoramuses about tapestry, but apparently Alice Kettle is the artiste du jour. The tapestry was fabulous. My efforts do not remotely do it justice. They start at the left hand end and work to the right.


The Dotterel said...

Nice balance of music - from Purcell to the mighty Walmisley. Bet you all enjoyed it!

Rob Clack said...

Well, all except Mattins, of course, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not keen on the Carter.

And my whining about not doing anything new has been completely neutralised by a concert we're doing on 26th, which has lots of new stuff. It's a Virgin Mary concert and includes Britten which I know slightly, Poulenc, Cecelia MacDowell, Parsons, and quite a bit of other stuff. I'm going to have to do some notebashing at home, which I don't normally need to do!

Can Bass 1 said...

I do so enjoy the Walmisley - such a shout for the basses! I see, Mr Clack, that your profile describes you as an atheist. How very interesting!

Rob Clack said...

Caveat: I hope nothing in this comment could be construed as offensive. I truly do not mean to be, but I suspect you and I, CB1, hail from completely opposite ends of the belief spectrum. As such, it would be easy for me to be quite rude without realising it. /Caveat:

Many people find it strange that I should take such pleasure in sacred music, given my complete disbelief, but I don't find it so.

I love the music (whoever said "The devil gets all the best tunes" was 100% wrong!), I love the architecture, I even like quite a lot of the ritual, to say nothing of the pretty frocks the clergy get to wear (the Dean of Winchester had a wonderful outfit!). And Choral Evensong is the best service, combining, as it does, maximum music with minimum God.

The only bit I have difficulty understanding is how anyone could take that stuff seriously, but then, that's not really my problem, is it?

And I would be in real trouble if everyone did share my skepticism, since there'd be no verger (indeed, no clergy) to follow around the church as we process in!

So although I might broadly agree with Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest, I am enormously grateful to millenia of Christians (clergy, builders, architects, stonemasons, composers, organ builders and organists, glass artists, choirmasters and choristors all) who have made it possible for me to indulge this particular passion.

04 September 2008 12:57

Can Bass 1 said...

As you should be, Mr Clack, as you should be. It is my opinion that if Mr Dawkins were at all musical, he would be less antipathetical towards The Church. If it wasn't for the believers, sir, we would both be the poorer (literally, in my case).

Can Bass 1 said...

By the way, I think your comment was worthy of a post in itself. Keep up the good work, dear boy!

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

So lovely that you were in Winchester, which was where Sister and I spent all our school holidays with our Grandma. We used to wander in the water meadows, climb St. Catherine's Hill (sadly not there any more) and regularly visit the Cathedral. Lovely memories. And I'm sure the music was lovely too. M xx

Rob Clack said...

The way things link up is wonderful, isn't it, Margot? You used to live in Cambridge and holiday in Winchester. I know that in itself is not the greatest coincidence of all time, but it just adds glue to the sociability of blogging. Lovely!