Choir Trip to London 2017

At St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, July 2017

An Account of the Trip
Arabella Pope

After more than a year of preparation, fund-raising, and rehearsal, the Adult Choir’s ten-day trip to London (July 21-31, 2017) unfolded exactly as planned, and was an unqualified success in every way.

44 choir members and a dozen family supporters made their way to London during the couple of days before our first Evensong commitment at St. Martin in the Fields. It was exciting to greet familiar faces arriving at the hotel, but it was the moment as the choir assembled for rehearsal at St. Martin’s that brought home the awesome realization that we were actually in London, poised to begin our work together. By the time that service concluded, we were confident that we had arrived in excellent vocal shape, and knew that we would be giving our very best musical gifts in the week to come at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

And it was so. We experienced the joy and satisfaction that comes from intense rehearsal, as we polished our repertoire and offered it daily as choral worship. Listening carefully to the effects of the extraordinary reverberation in the vast space of St. Paul’s, we learned to sing with it rather than despite it, and enjoyed many gratifying moments of hearing a final chord ringing around the dome, perfectly in tune. We adapted handily to the different acoustic challenges of singing Evensong in the Quire pews and Eucharist services under the dome. Many hours of practicing Anglican chant technique brought us to the point of being able to relax and relish singing the psalms in a way that we have rarely experienced before. And offering six very varied settings of the Evensong canticles (the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis) within a week led us to fresh musical understanding and spiritual insights into those ancient texts.

Immense appreciation must be expressed to our Director of Music, Zach Fritsch-Hemenway, for bringing every musical aspect of the choral residency to such a high standard. He planned a thoughtful and varied repertoire of music (see what we sang), conducted exacting rehearsals over the course of a year, and provided direction from the podium that led the choir to sing with consistent excellence throughout the week. Joe Russell’s supporting role as Organist was also crucial to the success of the trip. He is a very gifted organist, and we wish him every success as he continues his Master’s studies at Rice University.

Commendable as the choir’s musicianship was, there were other deeply rewarding aspects of our weeklong sojourn at St. Paul’s Cathedral. On the first day, we were awe-struck by the grandeur of the space, the immense history of Anglican worship that it encompasses and our place in that tradition, the huge crowds of worshippers (several hundred at every service), and the high expectations of conduct in the liturgical rites. By the end of the week, we felt at home. Gathering each afternoon for rehearsal in the choir rehearsal suite, exchanging daily greetings with the very welcoming Cathedral staff and clergy, hearing our home parish of Saint Paul’s, Chestnut Hill being held up in prayer every day, joking with Joe as he peeked out from behind the curtained organ console for instructions, and finally conquering our initial choreographic challenges in procession — in these and many other ways we felt a sense of belonging at the Cathedral that brought a considerable sadness when the time came to leave.

The non-singing aspects of the trip received high marks as well. We were very well supported by our London-based trip manager, Clive Richardson, who understood the specific needs of a large and unwieldy choir group like ours, and made excellent arrangements for local travel and hotel accommodation, excursions to various London highlights including a theater evening at Shakespeare’s Globe, several all-group dinners, and who coordinated logistics on the ground with St. Martin’s and St. Paul’s. Seeing friends and family, along with parishioners participating in the Canterbury Tales pilgrimage, around London and among the congregation at each service, was a bonus pleasure for the singers.

As the Adult Choir gathers again to begin the new choir season on September 17th, we can acknowledge that we have grown considerably as a choral ensemble, and we look forward to bringing our increased skills and understanding to the weekly worship at Saint Paul’s. We are deeply grateful to all who supported this trip in so many ways.

If you have not yet seen it, you can still read the blog and enjoy the daily photo record of the trip.

Schedule of Services
Click each service to view music list.

Choral Evensong at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, Sunday July 23rd at 5:00pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 76 (Lawes)
Edington Service – Grayston Ives
Let All the World – Kenneth Leighton

Weekday Evensong at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Monday July 24th at 5:00pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 144 (Monk)
Truro Service – Gabriel Jackson
We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace – Moses Hogan

Weekday Eucharist at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Tuesday July 25th at 5:00pm

Feast of Saint James the Apostle
Mass Setting: Thomas Crecquillon
Beati Quorum Via – CV Stanford

Weekday Evensong at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Thursday July 27th at 5:00pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 72 (Boyce)
Evening Service in d minor – Thomas Attwood Walmisley
Laudibus in Sanctis – William Byrd

Weekday Evensong at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Friday July 28th at 5:00pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 74, 19-24 (Turle)
Evening Service in e minor – Leo Sowerby
Abendlied – Josef Rheinberger

Weekday Evensong at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Saturday July 29th at 5:00pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 77 (Harvey)
Westminster Service – Herbert Howells
Thee Will I Love – Herbert Howells

Sunday Eucharist at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Sunday July 30th at 11:30am

Messe Sollenelle – Louis Vierne
Jesu Dulcis Memoria – Leo Nestor

Sunday Evensong at Saint Paul's Cathedral, Sunday July 30th at 3:15pm

Responses – Richard Ayleward
Ps. 75 (South)
Edington Service – Grayston Ives
Let All the World – Kenneth Leighton