Blog Post 1 - Luke “Kicks Iradello” Iredale
As I write, the Choir of St James’, bedecked in our beloved robes and surplices (in various states of post-travel wrinkliness) has just processed - or should I say ‘glided?’ - out of Westminster Abbey following our first Evensong in this magnificent, historical church. To describe the experience as a remarkable privilege and an unforgettable feast for the senses is putting it mildly. To hear that 32-foot organ reed peal off into about three seconds of echo is something I’m sure we’ll never forget.
Following our journey from Sydney aboard some kind of giant metallic bird (an “aer-o-plane”, I am semi-reliably informed), we touched down in Heathrow on Tuesday morning to be greeted by superb weather. Upon exiting Westminster Station on my way to the Abbey in the afternoon - Hello, Big Ben! (he is, indeed, big. Definitely bigger than the average clock, I would say) - I did get pelted with hail for three or four minutes before, thankfully, the sky cleared and we were able to have a mosey about town, aided by our London-savvy tour guide Mr. Warren Trevelyan-Jones. We said hello to the Queen at Buckingham Palace, took tea at Fortnum and Masons and enjoyed a pint (well, pints) at a quaint pub in Covent Garden. Unfortunately I cannot recall the name of the pub - let’s take a guess, using the traditional English method of taking two nouns and separating them with a conjunction: The Fox and Ironing Board?
Taking a tour around the Abbey on Wednesday, we were struck by the sheer history of the place; among the interred are Sir Isaac Newton, Georg Frideric Handel and choir favourite Herbert Howells. The vastness of the building and the detail of its architecture is breathtaking, as was being amongst the ornately carved, candle-lit choir stalls.
A friendly verger, Andrew, took us through the procession method at the Abbey ahead of Evensong on Thursday. At five minutes to five pm it was on. Having managed not to trip over in the procession (as I have nearly done so many time at St James’), the organ play-over left us with a D-flat major chord then it was Introit time, which for this and for our first few services at the Abbey was Healy Willan’s charming Rise Up, My Love.
The service, for me at least, and I’m sure I speak for much of the choir, was a wonderful blend of the familiar and the enthrallingly new. Obviously we in the choir are no strangers to the order of the Evensong service, but to a packed congregation and beneath the Abbey’s gothic arches it took on an almost magical quality. From the Introit to the closing Amen of the Nunc Dimittis (Gray in F minor, a gutsy and powerful setting), the service was a most rewarding way to kick off the tour.
Next time on the Choir or St James’ tour blog*: I fail to correctly point a Psalm verse; Owen Elsley becomes Mayor of London; and three choristers fall into the Thames in a river cruise gone wrong.