This evening, the church of St. Mary’s Church, Rotterdam celebrated their 300th anniversary with a Jubilee Choral Evensong – an event which was the culmination of a weekend of celebrations, including a visit by the Queen. As the choir is low in numbers, I, and four other member of the choir in The Hague, joined forces with them for the service.
[I hadn’t realised just what a long history English speaking churches had in The Netherlands… more information on the history of St. Mary’s Church can be found here. The English church in The Hague, has an even longer history, stretching back to 1586…]
In what seems to becoming a pattern for choir-related travel (see “Of trains and harpsichords“), my journey to Rotterdam was nearly thwarted by an ammonia spillage at Rotterdam Central station, which caused the whole station to be shut down, and trains cancelled for most of the day. Fortunately, I arrived at Delft station just as things started moving again, and was able to catch the first train to Rotterdam, in time to meet my lift. Arriving at Rotterdam, I was met by a small amount of chaos, and a fire engine, but fortunately, no further trouble and we made it to the church in time for the start of rehearsal.
Despite the transportation problems which left a couple people stranded at home, the choir was 16-strong, including us visitors and could barely fit into the choir stalls. As a last minute substitute, I hadn’t been to the previous rehearsals, so I had to think on my feet a little. Still, most of the music was familiar, so there wasn’t too much sight-reading. After a bit of a shaky start as the choir settled in, we managed to run through most of the music in the hour before the service. As this was the choir’s first Choral Evensong, quite a few nerves were evident, but Sonja, the choirmistress did a great job of pulling everyone together.
After a quick break to robe up, drink a cup of tea, and brush up on a few notes, we lined up for the service. Processing in a strange church is always nervewracking – you never know what obstacles may lie ahead to trip you up! When you’re wearing a borrowed robe, and a member of the clergy is up ahead photographing you, it becomes even more daunting.
Although a few things went a little amiss with the order, the service itself went very well. For once, we were singing evensong in a packed church, something which is a rarity even in cathedrals, and certainly not familiar to us in The Hague (we had a turnout of 9 people for our service of Choral Evensong last Sunday night!).
When I joined the choir two years ago, I didn’t realise what a large community I would find myself in. Despite my fears that I would find myself part of a closed English community, I find myself now with many friends both from the Netherlands and other expatriates from around the world. This evening was a wonderful opportunity to sing with and meet up with my friends from other parts of the Netherlands.
- Bless O Lord, us thy servants – Harper
- Preces and Responses – Hopper
- Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis – Harwood in Ab
- I will sing with the Spirit – Rutter
- The strength of God – Harper