Monday, 3 September 2012

Salisbury Cathedral

Last week we were singing the sung services in Salisbury Cathedral, it being the summer hols and the cathedral choir school being on holiday.  We've done this every August since 1996 and it's a demanding, but very satisfying week.  If you're interested in the music we sang, you can see the programme for the week here.

We rehearse from 9:15 to 12 each morning, then again from 4 to 5, before singing Evensong at 5.30.  Evensong is just the best service there is, consisting of maximum music and minimum god!

It's a real privilege to have the opportunity to sing such wonderful music in such magnificent architecture, and Salisbury is a fabulous place to sing, having one of the best acoustics we've experienced.  We also like the fact that there's no Rood Screen, so the whole place feels much more open.

We visited the cathedral some years ago when we were singing in Winchester Cathedral, so we knew there was a fantastic font in the nave.  Naturally, I had to take a photograph!

It's very clever.  The water being pumped in from underneath hits a baffle, so the surface of the water is very still, though people walking by do disturb it, and lots of people stick their fingers in, of course.  And where the outfall enters the floor, the maker has got some cleverly arranged wire mesh, so the water falls into the catchment with a soft hissing sound.  Quite brilliant.

There was some difficulty with one of the choir school administrators, who was positively unhelpful and unfriendly, but we suspect that as the school is undergoing some serious refurbishment and is clearly not remotely ready for use in the coming term, she was possibly stressed beyond the point at which common courtesy is regarded as important.

The only other downer was one of the clergy in the cathedral.  For those not familiar with Anglican Choral Evensong, there's a bit in the service where a priest intones a series of sentences, to which the choir responds, for example

Priest: O Lord open thou our lips
Choir: And our mouths shall shew forth thy praise

 all done to music and generally referred to as Responses.  So on Friday, we did a set of Responses written by our own musical director, and which the priest would not have come across before.  He was given the music a couple of days ahead of time, but clearly did not look at it, and didn't bother to come to one of our rehearsals to run through it, and when he came to do the intonation, he was simply all over the place.  What he sang was nothing like what was written.

This presented us with a problem, because the whole thing is done unaccompanied, so if he doesn't sing the right entry, we don't know what notes to sing ourselves, and have to guess.  The result is predictably awful  Fortunately the next time he was doing this, on Sunday, he was familiar with the Responses, so could (mostly) get his bit right.

He did apologise for the 'note safari', so we forgave him.

Something I can't omit from this posting was our lunch venue.  On Tuesday, being our first full day, Jenny and I went into Bernier's Tea Room which is a restaurant right next to the part of the choir school where we were staying and were delighted to find the food excellent, though the service slightly slow.  It was so good, we went the next day, and the next, until by the end of the week, we'd not eaten lunch anywhere else!

Still on the food theme, on Friday, four of us ate at Charter 1227 in the centre of Salisbury, where we had fantastic food, great wine and excellent service, but the whole experience was spoiled by the fact that the prices on the menu did not include VAT, so a restaurant we'd thought rather pricey but probably worth it, turned out to be 20% more expensive.  That left a nasty taste in the mouth, I can tell you. we mis-read the small print at the bottom of the menu and thought that the prices excluded VAT.  Actually, they included VAT, so we were maligning them falsely.

And it wasn't outrageously expensive, since four of us had delicious main courses and two bottles of house wine for £100 excluding tip.


ArcticFox said...

I REALLY love your "font photo" and I also adore your rant about not including VAT that turned out to be slightly misguided - classic - and I'm so pleased you didn't, as I often do when ranting without real cause, delete the whole thing!!

Rob Clack said...

I felt sufficiently bad about the loud muttering that had come from our table that I almost sent them an apologetic email!

ArcticFox said...

I would LOVE to receive such an email from a crestfallen customer!!