Tuesday, November 22, 2005

First Day in England

I’m in Cambridge now. And it has an air of unreality about it.

My feelings have been strange on the way here, from fear (I don’t know why.) to giddiness to feeling a bit overwhelmed.

When I got here after some blessed sleep on the bus, I could hardly wait to walk about. And, yes -- you guessed it – I couldn’t keep myself from plucking down my four and a half pounds and exploring King’s College Chapel. That was overwhelming (the chapel, not the admission). It is so awesome, and there is so much to take in. Just the wonderful pre-reformation windows (which are quite rare in England thanks to iconoclasts) are more than I can take in.

Now, I’m about to walk back down the road and attend Evensong at King’s College Chapel. Just writing that brings a mix of emotions. And it finally seems very real.

One thing that I noticed -- the choir (and here I mean the main part of the chapel), as soaring as it is, is not big at all on the floor. I suspect evensong will be quite intimate.

Time to get my shoes on and get there early.


Evensong at King’s was excellent. And I sat seat only two seats and an aisle away from the choir! That’s intimate, I’d say.

A highlight was a chorister reading the first lesson of Isaiah 53. And he read that moving and pivotal chapter quite well, with a good boyish English accent, of course.

If there was a disappointment, it was that the choristers didn’t sing the canticles (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittus) at all. Only the men sang those. But that’s understandable because the boys had a lot of challenging parts to sing tonight, particularly in the Hymn to St. Cecilia. And when they were singing . . . wow -- and I couldn't help but say that under my breath after one piece.

But I was probably most moved by the Collects. To hear these ancient prayers in such a place . . . well, like I said I was moved.

I was surprised that King’s ended with enough time for me to rush over to Evensong at St. Johns. As I made a good guess and opened the correct chapel door, the choir was already gathering. They quickly prayed and began the service. I could have moved into the main chapel after they processed in. But I didn’t know what was proper, so I stayed in the antechapel.

But hearing it from back there was a pleasant surprise on several counts. First, the choir sounded just fine even from that far away. I could hear them perfectly well. Second, not only did the screen between the chapel and antechapel not mess up the sound at all, but I could also see the chapel quite well. (The screen in King’s blocks the view much more.)

And third, I frankly haven’t been impressed by what I’ve heard from St. Johns in the recent past. But live, they are perfectly good. Maybe they need better sound guys for their broadcasts and recordings, I don’t know.

But I was pleasantly surprised to have a ticket waiting for me when I arrived at my hotel today – one to St. John’s special Advent service on Sunday. I think I will use it.

No comments: