August 17, 2015
This entry was written by Suzanne Casey and the Rev. Marie Swayze
Heare Lyes (Expecting the Second Coming of our Saviour Christ Jesus) the body of Edmund Spenser, the Prince of Poets…
…a prophetic quote we delighted in seeing inscribed on a gravestone in the wall of the Poet’s Corner, during our first glimpse of the history and magnificence that is Westminster Abbey.
…and so began our choral odyssey in London, as we embarked on our fourth pilgrimage to the cathedrals of the United Kingdom.
On this our first morning in London, we reveled in a real English breakfast – yes, baked beans included! We then gathered our vestments and music and met our coach and driver for the trip to Westminster Abbey. Our driver, Mark, could compete with the best NYC drivers as he navigated the very narrow roadway between parked lorries. Not a mirror was touched, though we were all holding our combined breaths.
When we arrived at Westminster, the crowds at the main gate were nothing short of astonishing, but we were brought in through the “Beadles’s Box” to Cheyneysgate, avoiding the “around the block queues.” Then we climbed the thirty steps with two landings to the century’s old Choir Room. If we did not understand breath control before those stairs, we certainly did afterwards!
Once we had rehearsed for as long as we were allowed, we had no idea what the response would be from the Clergy and Staff in the Abbey, who see and hear a different choir every day of the week from mid-July through August. Most visiting choirs come from the UK, so our choir from the USA was an anomaly. We were reservedly welcomed, except for the so-called cartwheeling verger who announced us by waving the American flag ass he processed past us singing in the choir stall.s
We were all nervous, coming into this performance of a lifetime, hoping that we would not disappoint Bruce, ourselves, or the crowds attending. But every seat was filled, flowing over into the nave! We knocked it out of the park! One of the resident clergy approached our Chaplain, thanking us for our Evensong, noting the “perfect tone” and the “sound so rich that it filled the nave”! Another resident clergy asked us to please return and stay for a week.
We were exhilarated and exhausted and celebrated our first successful day with Indian food, for some, and pub food for others – and, or course, some good old English Ale.
Tomorrow morning, we are off to St. Paul’s Cathedral and a new and somewhat different venue.