Ely Cathedral – Choral Eucharist – 7th August 2011

No sooner has the week started then it seems you’ve already reached Sunday, in all its Cathedral craziness. As Cathedral Sundays go, this one was fairly relaxed with just two services, a Choral Eucharist and Choral Evensong. A bit of a shame really, as the cathedral trip is usually our once yearly opportunity to sing Mattins, a service of which I’m rather fond.

Cathedral Eucharists are usually a rather nerve wracking experience, as every cathedral celebrates the Eucharist with its own little quirky features. The common features are complex processing, singing in the Nave rather than the Quire, a greater amount of pomp and circumstance than your average parish church, and, if you’re unlucky, enough incense to smoke out a family of hornets. Take it from me, an incense-filled choir vestry is not the best way to begin an hour’s singing.

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The church has a wonderful range of language, both formal and informal, that you never encounter in normal life. Thus, at 10.30 this morning we lined up halfway down the Nave, face to face with the crucifers and taperers (as opposed to tapirs, which was my first interpretation of our instruction sheet). Informally, they are known as ‘the cross and lights’, and if that doesn’t clear things up for you, then let me explain that they were three acolytes (plainly put, blokes in white robes), the middle one holding up the cross, with one on either side holding a giant candlestick, who lead the procession into the cathedral. The clergy lined up behind us, the bell was rung – the prompt for the cross and candles to be lifted high into the air, and we started out procession towards the Octagon stalls. A nice straightforward procession, thankfully, because I was leading on my side.

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Although there were a couple musical glitches in the service, from a procedural point of view it went without a hitch – no unexpected musical interludes, and no mistimed organ fanfares. For a Cathedral Eucharist, everything went remarkably smoothly, and I even forgot to be nervous. We sang one of Tallis’ Salvator Mundis as the communion motet, a piece which I first learnt with Bowdon choir about 10 years ago. Typically, this time round I was singing second alto, and this is one of the few pieces I learnt at Bowdon where I always sang first. Kept me on my toes, anyway.

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Mass: Darke in F
Communion Motet: Salvator Mundi, Tallis

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