Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Day Disturbance at Westminster Abbey

I’ve had an excellent Remembrance Day in Westminster. An beautiful and solemn special service at the Abbey; a parade with what had to be thousands of veterans, many so old I wondered how they could march the whole route; an hour of change-ringing from the Abbey against a bright cloudless sky – all this and more made it a great day.

And I may say more about that in due time. But the end of the day was a bit too interesting.

During Evensong at Westminster Abbey, a disturbed gentleman created a disturbance in the North aisle beside the Quire. Clothed and in his right mind he was most definitely not.

Now, I did not eyewitness the incident though I most definitely heard it as he was shouting and rattling around. I did hear after the service that he stripped during his episode. I did not bother to ask if he wore boxers or starkers.

The episode began shortly before or during the First Lesson. It ended during or shortly after the Second Lesson. The vergers were concerned enough that they closed the quire screen for a time. But the service did not stop.

The choir carried on admirably. One chorister was in tears for a moment, but he, too, carried on. Good on him! I am very impressed with the choir. They have been sounding great and sounded great even tonight under trying circumstances.

I cannot blame the chorister if he was frightened. It was a bit frightening. In the Quire, I could not see what was going on. At times I thought it might have been organized with more than one person involved. I was honestly considering what action to take to defend myself and others if matters escalated and someone entered the Quire itself. It was only during the sermon that we were informed it was one disturbed man.

As I've mentioned, there was a lot of rattling around during some of the disturbance. So after the service I asked a verger if any damage was done. He said no.

I did not ask and do not know just exactly how the disturbance was ended or whether law enforcement was called in. It was most certainly handled with restraint.

As if that is not enough, I attended the organ recital not long afterwards. And the organist turned out to be a very accomplished but perhaps slightly mad Russian named Ilya Kudryavtsev.

Why do I question his sanity? He played Alain’s Trois Dances. Those who have had the misfortune of hearing this piece and remembering it will understand.

But at least he kept his clothes on.

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