European Cathedral Singers in Bristol

August is traditionally “choir camp” month, as choirs are given the opportunity to fill in for the many cathedral choirs during the summer vacation.

I spent the last week with the European Cathedral Singers (ECS), singing the services at Bristol Cathedral from Monday to Friday, and at the parish church of St Mary Redcliffe on the weekend. This is the only the second trip I’ve made with the ECS, and the first time I’ve joined for the full week.

As last year, it was both enjoyable but exhausting, as we sang 8 services in 7 days, with a lot of new (and in some cases, challenging) music. With the exception of one day off, we spent the best part of each day rehearsing, before singing evensong at 5.15. On Sunday we sang a total of 3 services, which kept us busy from 8.45am until 7.30pm.

Compared to some of the cathedrals in which I’ve sung, Bristol Cathedral is fairly small, and as such, less overrun with tourists and more welcoming than many.

One the other hand, St Mary Redcliffe is, on the scale of parish churches, really rather grand, but no less friendly for that. During the break in services I wandered in with my camera and was made very welcome by the sidemen on duty, who even made me a cup of tea!

One bonus of choir trips is the chance to visit parts of England that I would probably never venture to otherwise. This was my first visit to Bristol, and I had the feeling that there was plenty more to be seen, if I’d only had the time and energy!

Of course, since we were staying in Clifton, we couldn’t miss seeing the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Lit up at night, it was really quite a sight, although some of us were more impressed by it than others!

We were also lucky that our visit coincided with the attraction of the annual Balloon Festival, which was also based in Clifton. The balloons went up twice a day – at 6am and 6pm. Unfortunately, the one morning I managed to get up in time to go out and take photographs, the weather was changing and there were very few balloons and a lot of clouds.

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