Monday, 26 October 2009

Singing in Durham Cathedral

On Saturday we drove up to Durham where we sang Evensong in the afternoon, then Mattins, Eucharist and Evensong yesterday, and I think we acquitted ourselves reasonably well. We messed up the processing pretty much every single time, but then, they did have a different pattern of processing for each service, and we didn't actually rehearse all the manoevres, so it's hardly surprising we got it wrong.

And there were a few scary moments in the Mattins (Ireland Te Deum as far as I was concerned!) but probably nothing most of the congregation would have noticed.

Talking of the congregation, there were more there than in any cathedral we've ever sung in, apart from the Sunday morning after Princess Diana was killed. We were impressed! To get a decent crowd at the 10 am Mattins is unheard of, and the church was pretty well full for the Eucharist at 11.15.

At lunchtime a small group of us was queueing up at an ATM and the girl at the front, turned when she'd finished, saw one of us near her and said "Were you in the.... oh, in that tie, I don't need to ask, do I? The mass was just lovely!" Actually, we thought so to, but it was wonderful to get an unsolicited compliment like that. We did a Lloyd Webber (senior) mass and an anthem called Let all mortal flesh keep silence by Self. And we did it rather well!

Then there was another surprise waiting for us. From 2 to 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, we were rehearsing for the 3.30 Evensong, including another piece by Ireland, this time Many Waters Cannot Quench Love. Well actually, it might be called something else, but I remember it by the first line, and I like it. It has two short solos in the middle, one soprano, one baritone. One particular sop has always done this solo, and she did again yesterday, and it was lovely. However, the bass who normally does the other solo wasn't with us, so the conductor had asked a visiting bass who occasionally sings with us if he'd do it. And wow! what a voice! It was fantastic! And when we looked around, the nave of the church had lots of people just sitting listening! I reckon there was a good 100 there!

Durham Cathedral is a wonderful building and it was a real privilege to sing there, so I was a bit disappointed when, at the end, they complimented us on our singing, but did not invite us back. I'm hoping that was just an oversight, but it might be that their standards are just that bit higher.

I was also very fortunate that Jane came with us and was happy to drive half-way in each direction. That made all the difference, and I was actually able to do a good day's work today. Had I driven the 450 mile round trip myself I'd have been flat out today! Thank you, Jane. You can drive my car any time!

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