On 26th and 27th April I was involved in a historic concert at St Paul’s Cathedral with 59 of my fellow choristers from across the UK.
Our job was to raise money for the Friends of Cathedral Music’s Diamond Fund, which aims to support choristers around the country and enable children from all backgrounds to sing in cathedral choirs. We did this with help from two famous faces: Aled Jones and Alexander Armstrong.
I set off with my nan bright and early on the Tuesday morning, taking the early train down to London. After a brief, but very exciting, stop at the Platform 9 ¾ shop at Kings Cross Station, a short hop on the tube to Blackfriars and then a rather long walk to the hotel (we just took the scenic route, to take in the sites, I definitely didn’t get us lost…) it was time for our first rehearsal. Our hotel wasn’t far from St Vedast church (where we rehearsed on the Tuesday) so my nan and I walked across Millennium Bridge, which wasn’t as wobbly as my nan predicted, and then onto the church.
Fortunately for me I had previously met two of the other girl choristers the annual Choir Schools Association sports day; Phoebe from Liverpool and Lissy from Manchester. After a quick catch up we settled ourselves into Decani and Cantoris and we were then introduced to Mr Carwood (Director of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral) who was to be our conductor for the concert. Our rehearsal began and, from the off, we were able create a most awesome sound (if I do say so myself). We had a few breaks in the rehearsal, during which we were supplied with a multitude of biscuits (they are what choristers live on!), where I quickly made some new friends. The rehearsal finished at about 19:00 and after that we were free to leave with our parents and chaperones and as many of us were staying at the same hotel we walked over Millennium Bridge together and shared stories about our various cathedrals.
The next day we were free to do as we wished until 13:15 when we all gathered at the North door at St Paul’s ready to collect our music and find our seats on the stage (which was right under the dome)! We were then joined by the men and women of the back row (who sing the lower voice parts) and our rehearsal began with Mr Carwood at the helm. We rehearsed all the music for the concert (and got used to the eight second time delay and echo) and then we were taken up to the Whispering Gallery. I have to admit that, apart from taking a few photographs, I kept myself pinned to the wall with the chorister from Wells cathedral (who was equally terrified).
After that wonderful (but very, very petrifying) experience it was time for tea; after all a choir marches on its stomach! We walked the 2 minute journey from the Cathedral to the Choir School and then, while we waited for tea, we watched the first part of Inside Out. At tea I sat with the choristers from Belfast, Liverpool, Leicester and one of the choristers from St Paul’s called Hugh. During the course of tea, we learnt that one day Hugh wants to work for Microsoft so, rather cheekily, we all made him promise to give us free computers, hehe!
After tea we went to the OBE Chapel to vest ourselves in our robes. This was a great photo opportunity because there were so many different types of robes and so many colours! Aled Jones came down to the Chapel (we were in the crypt) to give us a last minute pep talk. We then lined up and the moment was upon us.
We processed onto the stage row by row and we each eagerly looked around the audience looking for our family members and our Directors of Music. After welcoming the Duchess of Gloucester with a royal fanfare (played on the magnificent cathedral organ) and a brief introduction from Mr Carwood it was time to begin! We sung a wide range of choral music, from the Grandeur of Parry’s I was Glad to selections from a Child of Our Time, with highlights including the Allegri Miserere and Bring Us O Lord God, a special commission (by Philip Stopford) written especially for the concert. At the end of the concert we sung a surprise encore (a Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter) much to the composer’s delight. (He was sat on the front row and was clapping wildly for nearly ten minutes!)
It was then time to pack away our robes and our music and to say our final farewells (which was the saddest part of the two days). This is an experience that I will never forget, not only was the concert fabulous but the friendships I have made will last a lifetime. I am in no doubt that this, along with my time in the choir, was the best experience of my life and I shall be so sad to leave it all in July. Thank you to everyone who made this experience (and all my choir related experiences) possible!
All photos from the day can be found here.
(Photo credit: Graham Lacdao, PhotoGeek)