June 13 2008
Hi, and big hello to the IMPROG folk! I hope you enjoy my piece on music.
A couple of hours ago I attended evensong at Winchester Cathedral. As I made my way through this magnificent building to the tiny Lady Chapel all I could hear was the sound of my footsteps. It was eerily quiet. There has been a cathedral on this site since 648AD and the foundations of today's magnificent building were laid down in the year 1079. And today I was alone this enormous echoing space.
Ten minutes later 21 of us sat in the velvet seated stalls around the walls of this ancient room. There was total silence. Suddenly the sound of voices wafted through the cathedral from the transept some distance away. Souring voices in perfect harmony. Filling every corner of one of the largest sacred buildings in Europe. Then all was quiet again. We stood as a solemn verger lead a red and white robed choir linto the chapel. They broke into song. A huge noise. I shivered.
Anthems, response, psalms. Thirty voices swooping and swirling, this way then that. Soft as a whisper then loud as thunder. All thoughts were cleared from my mind as music filled my entire body.
The words of the psalm were pure poetry.
Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together!
The words of the Bible reading a little alarming!
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
After forty minutes on this emotional roller-coaster, the choir stood, tuned, and followed the verger out of the chapel and disappeared into the gloom of the Cathedral. We sat in silence. As if nothing had happened.
I wandered slowly down the nave. The people I was sitting with minutes before seem to have evaporated - disappeared. Only I was there. I walked past the tomb of St Swithan and across the final resting place of Jane Austin. This was the nave down which Oliver Cromwell famously galloped his horse. The nave where for centuries Kings and Queens have processed. And I had it all to myself.
At the same time tomorrow, seventeen hundred dignitaries and seven hundred members of the public would be cramming into this vast building for the first of the annual carol services. A choir of 60 voices, three opera singers, a symphony orchestra and the mighty organ shaking the building to it’s very foundations.
But right then it was just me. And my maker. Assuming of course I believe in such things!
A video of Winchester Cathedral choir
More pictures of Winchester Cathedral here
Article on the City of Winchester here