Thursday, 25 August 2011

A week in Canterbury

This year, our cathedral week was in Canterbury, which I think must mean we've arrived, choir-wise.  They don't come much more prestigious than York and Canterbury, so I think we're there.

I was a little apprehensive, following our York experience.  In York the lay clergy were very friendly and welcoming, but the big knobs were distinctly sniffy and remote.  Not the happy experience you hope for at all.

In the run up to last week, our musical director had something of a struggle to agree a music list with the Canterbury folks, some aspects of which seemed perfectly reasonable, and others quite strange, so I started to expect the clergy to be much like those in York.

I'm delighted to say, the reverse was the case.  They were completely lovely, and we had a simply brilliant time. The minor canon who lead us in the responses was a bit concerned when he saw there were only 14 of us on the first day, but when he heard us rehearse, he realised there's no deadwood in this choir - we all make a noise, and when we want to, we can be really quite loud!

We were astonished when we processed in for our first service on Monday, to see a congregation of about a hundred.  Normally during the week there are more of us than them, but this week we never had fewer than about 75, and on Sunday, there must have been 300 in the nave for the eucharist.  Of course, Canterbury is a big tourist attraction and also has significant numbers of pilgrims visiting.  Still, awesome to think that we must have sung to nearly 1,000 people in the course of the week.

I had checked out a very useful website called Canterbury Explorer before we went, so we had some clues about good places to eat, and on Tuesday, six of us had dinner at the excellent, if pricey, Deeson's restaurant. There being just me and five women, I jokingly referred to them as 'my harem'.   There were one or two negative comments from other choristers the next day, none directly to me, that they would have expected to be invited, but that's just bollocks. At no point did I consider organising anything for the whole choir, and they have absolutely no right to expect anything of the sort.  Sorry, I find myself getting cross about it all over again!  GRRR!  The only person who could legitimately feel aggrieved was Cynthia, who is part of our little 'dining club'.  I didn't ask her because she organised the accommodation and I thought (wrongly, as it turned out) that she'd need to be on-site to ensure things ran smoothly.

We had lunch twice in the delightful Café St Pierre (which doesn't seem to have its own website), once in the excellent Goods Shed and once in Café Mauresque, a middle-eastern restaurant.  We also had dinner in the Mexican restaurant Café des Amis and in Café Mauresque.  This might sound as though the food at the school wasn't good, but in fact it was very satisfactory, just we felt inclined to eat out much of the time.

The Goods Shed was a particularly splendid find.  An old railway shed, it had a variety of stalls, selling fresh meat, fresh fish, vegetables, sandwiches, wine and beer, cheese, etc, as well as a restaurant where you could get an excellent lunch.  We bought freshly made sandwiches twice to take as a picnic lunch, and were delighted both times.

On Wednesday after the morning rehearsal, we drove to Whitstable, where we ate our picnic on the beach, then west to Oare, where Jenny had spotted a bird-watching spot.  That was spectacular, with about 50 avocets, hundreds of black-tailed godwits, a little egret, lots of lapwings, dunlin, cormorants and a few redshanks.

The choir always has one day off, when we don't sing a service, though we do rehearse in the morning.  On that day, Jenny and I took our picnic to RSPB Dungeness for a spot of birding.  It was windy and overcast, but we saw lots of really interesting birds, and had a most excellent time.   Marsh harriers, great crested grebes, common terns and lots of ducks of various sorts.  Excellent!

We also had a walk in Blean Woods nature reserve, which was really lovely.  Didn't see many birds, but the wood, a mixture of coppiced birch, mature oak, open heathland, etc, was so still and quiet, we didn't care.  We just ambled gently through, soaking up the peace.

And to round of a very satisfying, if exhausting week, I heard today that our director has had a letter from Canterbury, thanking us very much for singing for them and saying they're looking forward to us returning.  We must have done OK if they're inviting us back!


Jennyta said...

Sounds like a very pleasant week, Rob. I have a mental picture of you surrounded by your 'harem'. ;)

Cyn said...

Yes I was aggrieved but no hard feelings!!

Rob Clack said...

Sorry Cyn. I'll try not to do that again.