Welcome to England Web Log 2009! This page will be updated periodically throughout the Choir's residency in Ely Cathedral as time and technology permit. Our hope is to have news, photos, and sound clips updated daily, but we make no promises! Please keep checking back!
30 July 2009 - 6:30pm Paris, France
Greetings everyone. Thanks to all of you who have kept up with this little blog, and apologies none of us were to update it on a daily basis. At least each installment is very newsy!
The choir finished our residency on Sunday in Ely, and most of our group returned to the US on Monday. I've heard no horror stories like our last trip home in 2006, so I take no news as good news in terms of everyone's travel. I've been camping out in France for the past few days doing all the Paris tourist activities. Sunday will be spent church hopping and hearing the finest organ music in the world. Enjoying the fabulous view from the tour de cloches at the American Cathedral, as we turned Zach's apartment into a hostel for a revolving door of visitors. Mary Jane & Lee Hendrickson moved on to Scotland today, and Lee Jenkins is to make a swing through Paris tomorrow. Fred & Mary Hood passed through briefly yesterday. There is so much to do here in Paris one could become quickly overwhelmed. Concerts and site-seeing galore!
I'll post photos once I'm home; have no way to do that here unfortunately. So do please check back to this site as well as Facebook for photos in the next couple weeks!
25 July 2009 - 12:15pm
Today marks day 8 for most of here in England, and the penultimate day of our choir residency in Ely Cathedral. As always in Cathedral life, the weekend marks the culmination of intercessions, prayers, and music offered throughout the week and is really the crown of a choir's residency. There is a lot of music to tackle in the next day, but I know we are up for it!
Ely is a very interesting city (even though it's a very small "town" by American standards, it is referred to as a city because it has a cathedral). The name came from the fact that there were so many eels in the river once the fens were drained. I think I heard they disposed of over 40,000 eels. It's a fairly marshy terrain. And, there are slugs, as I found out at the pub the other night. Meaning one was on the back of my shirt for who knows how long until someone plucked it off. And they're big! I'm a bit creeped out....dunno how long I had a slug hanging on to the back of my shirt!
I'm looking forward to taking the octagon tour this afternoon at 1:00. Being so busy with administrative music making leaves little time for the tours, and would hate to have left this place without having seen the cathedral from the vantage point of its massive octagon.
The director of music at Ely is Paul Trepte, who several of us know from an RSCM course a few years back. Those of us on that course joined Paul for dinner last night and we all had a great time catching up.
This evening after evensong the organists are going to sort through registrations for tomorrow while the rest of the choir enjoys a party thrown by our friend Tony Blyth, a singer in Ely Cathedral's choir (i.e., their regular choir - and he's joining us while we sing this week).
Should this be my last blog entry before the close of the residency tomorrow, I want to make clear our deep gratitude to all of you who have made this residency possible for us through your prayers, financial support, administrative support, and all other ways. A week of cathedral life is something only a handful of American choirs get to experience, and is a vital tool for education musically, socially, and religiously. When we depart Ely in the wee hours of Monday morning each singer can have the satisfaction of having participated in something truly special and most worth while. And they will have experiences and opportunities that will continue to form them for the rest of their lives. That is all possible because of your assistance, and we most heartily thank you!
If you're interested, please check back as I will be continuing this blog on my travels through France in the next two weeks.
23 July 2009 - 12:15pm
The rain left us on Wednesday in time for our 'invasion' of Cambridge. They talk of Cambridge being invaded several times the last time being the scholars. Well, I believe that our invasion was just as inpsirational. The city revolves around the students. We visited the Chapel at Kings College and the space was spectacular. The fan vaulting makes the ceiling look delicate and nearly weightless. Though the amazing part is that the center stones in the ceiling are as large a car. Beautiful stained glass and wonderful stone carvings mak e the space truly extraordinary. We took a small tour and got more history of the 800 years Cambridge Univeristy has been inspiring students.
Before we made it into Cambridge we stopped by the Cambridge American War Cemetary. It was amazing to find the pristine grounds and an british director of the cemetary who takes pride in his job of taking care of our lost soldiers. There are over 3000 buried there, all of different faiths, buried randomly. Though they did say they would go to the trouble of burying brothers together, even moving them across continents to accomplish this.
There is a wall with the names of over 4800 men and women missing in battle. Including Glenn Miller, the big band leader and John F Kennedy's brother. The chapel there has beautiful mosaic with over 9000 tiles in the ceiling alone. The seals of all 50 states are done in stained glass.
I found the quote on the ceiling very touching; "In proud and grateful memory of those men of the United States Army Air Force who from these friendly isles flew their final flight and met their God. They knew not the hour, the day, nor the manner of their passing. When far from home they were called to join that heroic ban of airmen that had gone before. May they rest in peace."
The entire Cemetary was a beautiful memorial to all those who sleep in unknown graves.
Upon returning to Ely we all broke away for our respective dinners, some even returning to Cambridge to enjoy a dinner prepared by Midsummer House which has earned two Michelin stars, which I understand was wonderful.
We have already had a full morning here in Ely. The Choirmaster at Ely led our morning rehearsal and worked tirelessly to give us a different perspective, that really was invaluable.
It is also market day here in Ely and the square is chocked full of vendors, everything from fruit and vegetables, rugs, hats, candy, cheeses, fresh breads. It's an interesting slice of rural English life. Even Tanner has taken the opportunity of setting up shop with his banjo and introducing the locals to Appalachian folk music, last we checked he had some fans and had earned a few pence.
It's time to get back outside and enjoy another beautiful summer day here in Ely. We'll keep you posted on any other interesting 'doings' and adventures we find.
Mary Jane and Whit
21 July 2009 - 2:45pm
Greetings all, and sorry it's taken me a couple days to update! We've successfully made the move to Ely, the rest of our entourage arrived yesterday, and we had our first evensong last night which was a smashing success. Rehearsal in just a few minutes for the next round, and similar success is predicted!
If I can find a way we'll upload some pictures eventually, but I have limited technology available. Actually joined the local library as a member to have some internet access, but their opening hours are not congruent to mine!
All the news for now...have to dash off to rehearsal. Hope to update later. All's well!
19 July 2009 - 1:15am
Day two in London and the site-seeing pre-singing portion of our trip is going very well. Today people enjoyed time to take in London sites as well as surrounding communities. Whit & Mary enjoyed some time in her old haunt of Oxford, while the rest of the group stayed around London. I enjoyed seeing the Tower of London for the first time (can you believe it - rarely did touristy things before!) and ascended the Monument for the second time in my life. The Monument is a structure built in the 17th century to commemorate the great London fire and is 311 steps leading to breath-taking beauty. Paying £3 affords one some of the best views of London as well as a great workout ascending to the top. The kids also enjoyed seeing the Tower of London and visiting the new Globe Theatre. We enjoyed a fabulous Indian dinner tonight even though there was mediocre service and questionable menu advice.
Enjoyed evensong at St Paul's Cathedral sung by the men of their choir. The counter tenors in particular were fabulous in that choir and they all sing with with precision that would be the envy of a militant ensemble. Like most cathedrals, they're in a hurry to close up shop after evensong, so we didn't get to dawdle too long, but enjoyed being in that space for a brief while. Our plans are to attending morning Eucharist tomorrow in Westminster Abbey and evensong again in St Paul's Cathedral.
I have also been taking pictures of a wooden spoon throughout greater London, which will be posted when I find a USB port and a laptop to upload them! Mr Spoon has enjoyed his travels!
All for now,
17 July 2009 - 8:20pm
Here we are on day one of the England trip. Everyone who was supposed to has arrived safely here in London without incident, Thanks Be To God. My flight with about 10 other in our group had no problem with the connection in Charlotte. The bus collected them up and I stayed at the airport to escort people from two later flights in. Ah, jet lag. I completely zonked out while waiting for the Hoods and thought I missed them entirely, but gracefully woke up in time (well, it was more of a jolt, not very graceful at all really). A few took cat naps at the hotel this afternoon before embarking on the afternoon / evening of site seeing and adventure. The Campbells have already been to Windsor Castle, Anna / Haley / Allissa are seeing Harry Potter tonight, and a few like me are just meandering the London streets aimlessly, dodging raindrops and trying to remember which ways to look before crossing the street. Enjoyed a wonderfully bland dinner at the corner pub which consisted of a pint of beer, a steak & ale pie, mashed potatoes, and peas. Glamorous, I know.
Tomorrow we look forward to Jenkins joining us and taking in more of what this amazing city has to offer. Sunday the group will attend services at Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, and Monday is move day to Ely where we embark on our responsibilities for the week of serving as choir in residence for Ely Cathedral.
All for now. We'll keep the updates coming, and hopefully have more entertaining news once this jet lag wears off!
Monday 13 July 2009
We are a mere three days from departure! Most of the choir is heading out this Thursday, arriving in London Friday morning for three days of site-seeing prior to our Monday obligations at Ely Cathedral. This is this choir's third trek across the pond and fourth English cathedral residency.
This is always a life-altering event for everyone involved. We have the unique opportunity to step into cathedral life for a week and to be educated by leading the regimin of daily evensong in a place of sanctity and pilgrimage. It's a daunting task, but one this choir is most certainly up to. As far as the music is concerned, we're ready. We also have readiness of spirit, and are prepared to be receptive to how God speaks through us next week.
Last night's evensong and final rehearsal tonight reveal a solid choir up for the job of replacing one of the finest choirs in the world for a week. The few musical kinks will work themselves out, largly as the byproduct of singing together with great regularity. I am very much looking forward to this task, and seeing again the spiritual formation that has life long effects.
Now back to sorting out all the 1,000 things that need to be done before leaving the country! This is a particularly stressful time for me as I'm working on selling my house, buying a new one, oversee this trip, and then come home to get married in September! But this is all good stress!