Ely Cathedral – Choral Evensong – 2nd August 2011

Anna and I began the day, more or less bright, and not quite as early as we’d planned, so that we could fit in a swim before breakfast and the first rehearsal of the day.  We cunningly set out without the iPhone (and therefore lacking Google Maps), so we had to rely on my vague recollections of the swimming pool being ‘on the other side of the cathedral’, after Waitrose and near the memorably named Prickwillow Road.  In such a small city, it didn’t seem that finding something as large as a swimming pool should be too difficult, so we pootled along past the cathedral, and along down the High Street, and then began to wonder if we might be going completely off course.  Conveniently, one of the cafe owners was setting out his tables and chairs, and pointed us in the right direction.  From the number of roads we had to cross, you might have thought that the pool was miles away, but we found it in about 5 minutes, after passing the ‘Cathedral Veterinary Centre’, which is presumably the vergers’ first choice when their cats get sick.

I digress….

550m or so later in a rather narrow pool with a view onto the Cathedral, we realised that we were running out of time if we wanted to still get breakfast and headed back to our retreat house, to make the most of the stewed tea and cold toast – the price you pay for turning up at 8.45 when breakfast starts at 8 o’ clock sharp.

The first rehearsal of the morning flew by with the presumably unintentional theme of going backwards – first the responses which we sang from start to finish and then backwards to the beginning again, and then one of the psalm chants which we sang whilst counting in 1 to 10 in German, and then back down to one again (vital preparation for our German anthem this evening).  Yet again I discover that whilst I can count forwards quite capably in Dutch, French and German, counting backwards is an skill I have yet to master.

Lots of fun singing words like ‘abominable’ in the psalms today… not so many sheep and oxen, however.

Whilst the weather is unpleasantly muggy, especially in the tiny song school where we are rehearsing, it’s nice to be able to sit outside on the Cathedral Green and enjoy some sun in between rehearsals.

We’ve also been enjoying picnic lunches in the shadow of the cathedral – this is the Lady Chapel, where we’ll be singing Evensong on Friday.  The iPhone doesn’t really do it justice, but I haven’t yet taken my ‘real’ camera up to the Cathedral, and I haven’t yet been able to download the photos I’ve taken on my compact camera.

Since we ran through all today’s music in the morning, we spent the first part of the afternoon rehearsing for tomorrow and Friday, before heading into the Quire for our final, robed rehearsal of the day.  One rehearsal and a cup of tea later, and it was yet again time to line up for evensong – choir trip days always fly by.

The music for this evening:

  • Preces and Responses: Walsh
  • Psalms: 12 (Smart), 13 (Hayes) and 14 (Walmisley)
  • Canticles: Sumsion in A
  • Anthem: Geistliches Lied, Brahms

Like yesterday, our non-written plan for the evening was ‘stretch out on bed with laptop, with peanut butter , olives and carrots in reaching distance’.  I also took a small tour of the gardens at dusk.  I’ve never been to a retreat house before, but I had the feeling that the gardens fit the bill perfectly – lots of little corners to retreat to, and a swing fixed low enough on the tree that even my feet scraped the ground.  Fun times.

Oh, and if you read Dutch, you should definitely take a look at Anna’s blog.  She writes far better than I can.

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