Monday, 16 August 2010

Singing in Exeter Cathedral

This year's Royston Priory Singers cathedral week was in Exeter last week, and we had a thoroughly splendid time! The weather was pretty good, the clergy welcoming and our singing was not bad.  We got lots of compliments both from the public and the clergy and came home feeling distinctly smug!

There were several highlights for me.  First, on Monday we were rehearsing the Walmisley Mag and Nunc ready for evensong that afternoon.  In the Mag, a short section is repeated, and it's marked to be sung by a quartet first time through, followed by the whole choir doing the repeat.  We've not done that before, and I was dead chuffed when the conductor asked me to be one of the quartet.  Scared almost witless, of course, but I managed it with only a little help from Tom, the tenor standing next to me.

And when the choir was split into two halves, one on each side, I was a lone tenor, there being only three of us.  Very good for me, too!  I found I was being much more careful and taking responsibility, where normally I'd depend somewhat on the other tenors.

Next up was Friday, when Jenny and I cooked dinner for the whole choir.  It's become the norm for us to self-cater on these weeks when that's an option, which it was this year.  We were staying in the choir school, so just used their kitchens.

It was quite nerve-wracking, but we had several slaves and between us it all came together relatively smoothly.  Quite a few compliments there, too, which is always gratifying.  Penne with Aubergine followed by Orange and Ginger Compote, both of which I've blogged about before.  Jenny started us off with a delicious green bean and celery soup made from beans grown in our very own garden.

One interesting aspect which was not entirely unexpected, but caught us out nonetheless, is that when catering for large numbers you can't just multiply up and expect it to be the same.  Frinstance, the pasta dish has 2 small dried chillies crumbled in when catering for two, but chillies have a sort of logorithmic effect, so we knew we shouldn't put 24 chillies in the final dish.  In the end we settled on eight which was about right; enough bite so you know it's there but not enough to sear your tonsils to charcoal.

The same applied to the dessert.  I use the seeds from something like eight whole cardamom pods when making a 4-serving dish, but 40 was obviously far too many.  I think we used about a dozen, which was just about enough.  And we only just got away with the quantities, too.  I multiplied up and we used one large orange per head, but in fact there was barely enough to go around.

The last highlight I'm going to bludgen you with was on Saturday.  We turned up at 3 for evensong and hung around waiting for the clergy to appear.  And we waited.
 Eventually it became apparent none was going to show, but fortunately Royston Priory Singers was up to that challenge!

We have enough competent and qualified people in the choir to do everything, so the conductor lead the responses while two choristers took the readings.  Nyaaah!  We don't need no clergy, we can do it all our own selves!

Said clergy were suitably red-faced when they turned up the next morning!

The pics are just to entertain you a bit.  The triple face is a bizarre piece of carving on the west end of the cathedral.  I've no idea how old it is, but suspect it's not that old as most of the carvings are in a really soft-looking stone and terribly badly weathered.

The rather splendid whale is at the end of one of the choir stalls and is matched by a bull, a crocodile eating a rabbit, an elephant and a lion on the ends of various other choir stalls.  All most likely Victorian, but I didn't do any research at all, so really don't know.

The last picture is of a misericord, which is the carving on the underneath of a hinged seat behind the choir and generally reserved for clergy.

I don't know what the significance of this is, but it looks to me like basically a war horse wearing chainmail, with a howdah on its back instead of a saddle, then human hands instead of front hooves and a human head, presumably a king, wearing a crown.

Judging by that and some of the other misericord carvings, I'd say they are much earlier than the rest, since many are mythical beasts and the product of some pretty wild imaginations!


Tenon_Saw said...

It never ceases to surprise me how many atheists like to sing cathedral music! Great cathedral - personally just back from Durham where I was listening to a choir rathe than directing it.

Rob Clack said...

Ach man it's the music that's just so glorious!

The hard part for me is that if the world implemented my true belief (religion is bollocks so should not be exercised) then I'd have no opportunity to sing the stuff I think is just so wonderful!

Jane said...

Love the pix. I never even noticed the whale when we were in the cathedral!

One of the things about the singing weeks is how little time we do get to have a good look around these wonderful buildings in which we sing.

Rob Clack said...

It took me until the end of the week to spot them. The whale I thought the most aesthetically pleasing, but the crocodile, eating a rabbit, was the most interesting!