Wednesday, August 17, 2005

St. Paul’s

The most important reason for our trip was our 6 day stint as choir-in-residence for St. Paul’s Cathedral's Evensong services. They take place daily at 5:00 (except, I think, for Sundays). The service lasts about 45 minutes and follows a prescribed pattern. Following the organ prelude, we processed in by twos, arms length apart (smartly, please!), hands clasped in front, and into the choir stalls, turning to face east and the high altar. After reverencing the altar, we turned to back to immediately begin the Preces. Following the Preces was the first (scripture) lesson, and then we sang the Psalm for the day. The second lesson was followed by the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for the day. Then came the Prayers and Responses, after which we sang the anthem for the day, and last came the day’s hymn. This is all from memory, but I think it’s right! We would reverence the altar before leaving, then recess in the same style as the procession. The clergy would always speak to us afterward and wish us a good evening. It became comfortable after a couple of days, but I never lost the feeling of vague unreality, as in “I can’t believe I’m singing in St. Paul’s cathedral!” The reverberation in that space was wonderful, although not as long as Ely, but we got to experience it for a whole week, and it never lost its delightfulness. It was sad to sing our last Evensong, although we were excited about continuing our trip, and I will never, ever forget the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience it was to sing in such an awe-inspiring space. And yet, my ministry every week at home, in good old Third Presbyterian Church, carries no less importance or meaning to God.

We toured the building on a gray, misty day, and my photos are not terribly good. We were also not allowed to take photographs in the cathedral, so I have none of the place where I sat every day to sing. But I took the intrepid climbers tour, and braved the 530 steps all the to the top, which is about the same height as the London Eye (keep reading for that!), although much more tiring! They wisely have an up and, separate, down route, as some passages were shoulder-rubbingly narrow, and one bit that was narrow, long and dark, incited claustrophobia in those who don’t normally have such issues (it made me a bit nervous!). There were spiral staircases and ladders, as well. The view from the top was amazing, and open air. I later tried to see people at the top from the ground, and couldn’t really make anyone out! We had a fascinating guide, Tom, I believe, and saw the room that holds the scale model of the current cathedral. The original was Norman, like Ely. Most of the windows have changed over the years, too, thanks to Hitler’s bombs and such. I think the ceilings were most incredible feature, and impossible to photograph, had we been allowed. You’ll just have to go there and see for yourself. We were gawking so much when we entered for rehearsal on the first day, it was mentioned to Peter so that he would make sure we didn’t do it during the service. But although we are an amateur choir, I know we would have behaved perfectly decorously without the warning!

Major cheating to create this photo, but the images and fiddling are 100% mine. You couldn't back up far enough to get it into one photo without getting run over by a double-decker or a taxi, anyway...

Crypt rehearsal UP

Here is part of our rehearsal space, in the crypt. Sounds creepy, but the crypt was actually very open, light, and inviting.

SP Spiral stair UP

One of the spiral staircases we had to navigate for the tour to the top.

SP upwards UP

Taken by leaning over backwards over the railing, looking up at the highest part of the cathedral.

from St.Paul's UP

Photo taken leaning forwards over the railing, looking out from the highest level we could access. See the Eye in the mist?

SP ceiling section enh UP

One section of the ceiling from behind the scenes, but the part on the left is the cathedral proper. This part of the ceiling was open to both areas. I hope that made sense...

St. Paul's lighter UP

This was the best I could do of the interior, from the very front, above the entrance doors.

St. Paul towers UP

Taken on our Monday evening walkabout, probably from the Millenium Bridge, when the sun lit up the gilt "finials", and a gull obligingly flew by...

Here is where we stood to sing every day, in the Quire.


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