Tuesday, July 26, 2005

last night

A few weeks ago, we had heard that our first evensong in Durham would be part of a commemoration of the HMS Invincible, a British aircraft carrier. I thought we would see small group of veterans. Instead, it was a service of thanksgiving for the ship, which is being de-commissioned in a couple of weeks.

There is -- or was -- a special relationship between the ship and the city of Durham. So the Mayor and Council were there in robes and wigs, and lots of officers and sailors, and the cathedral was packed. First rehearsal in a cathedral is important for the organist to quickly figure out the instrument, for the singers to learn how the space sounds, and for everyone to figure out what goes next and where we walk, and when, etc. Every five minutes, the rehearsal last night was interrupted with another canon or verger imparting new information or asking a question.

As we rehearsed, bomb-sniffing dogs and the police swept through the cathedral. After the doors were opened, every seat was filled and there was a group of people standing in the back of the nave. As we processed in, I tried not to gawk, but did manage to peek a few little side glances to take it all in.

Suddenly, an intimate service of evensong became actually a rather large celebration of state. The ship's captain read the Old Testament lesson and the ship's chaplain preached the sermon. I'm not sure what the Royal Navy thought of an American choir leading the singing on "God Save the Queen," but I think the whole service went quite well.

We begin and end each service with the clergy, gathered in formation in the Chapter House, the original monastery assembly room. This particular room was used as Professor MacGonagal (sp)'s office in the first couple of Harry Potter movies, as were other parts of the cathedral.

It is a beautiful place, mostly preserved as a Norman cathedral with its spare but massive Romanesque features, including massive stone columns along the nave that are as tall as they are round. On a tour today, we visited the shrine to St. Cuthbert and the grave of the Venerable St. Bede.

A group from Seabury-Western in Chicago are touring Cathedrals, and I heard they would be attending tonight's evensong.


lemming said...

Even an ego-laden soprano would fit in your pocket, right?


Keep us posted

Don said...

I worried about straining my voice, but actually I am starting to find that it's getting stronger.

As are my legs as I climb the many winding steps up to our room in the Castle next to the Cathedral. This is a perfect place to read Harry Potter -- I am almost finished with the new one.