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Tour Report: Worcester Cathedral, August 2016

 

Worcester College Mixed Choir, Oxford

Members of the Mixed Choir of Worcester College enjoyed a three-day residency in the picturesque surroundings of Worcester Cathedral, singing verse music by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English composers for the daily Office of Evensong. The choir was augmented by a few old members, including Alan Sheldon (now lay clerk at Worcester Cathedral) whose inside knowledge was much appreciated by all. We enjoyed the challenges and experience of smaller consort-style singing in a large building. There was also plenty of relaxation time available during the mornings and evenings to unwind!

Monday 8th August

8-mondayThe choir assembled in the Song School in the afternoon and began rehearsal for the evening’s service after a slight wait for the robes and music which were delayed on the train from Oxford! The music for the service included Byrd’s Second Service and O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, by John Blow, directed by Director of Chapel Music, Thomas Allery, and accompanied on the main and chamber organs of the cathedral by the Junior Organ Scholar, Alex Palotai. The style of the music for the week offered multiple opportunities for solo singing; the extensive opening solo of the Blow was shared between the soprano choral scholars. After a well-received first service, an enjoyable meal was had at Zizzi’s, near the cathedral which offered the opportunity for old and new members to get to know each other.

Tuesday 9th August

9-tuesdayA free morning of sightseeing and shopping culminated in a group midday boat trip along the river Severn which offered extensive views of the city and cathedral. A short lunch break later and rehearsals began for Evensong which included Tomkins’ Fifth Service and Hear my Prayer, O Lord by Batten, directed by Alex Palotai and accompanied by the Senior Organ Scholar, Daniel Mathieson. Once again the choir enjoyed extensive solo singing and working in detail on new and familiar repertoire. The Psalms were sung to chant on Tuesday and Wednesday, which proved to be a very worthwhile experience. The evening’s meal was at a nearby Indian restaurant and was an excellent way to unwind after a busy day.

Wednesday 10th August

10-wednesdayAnother free morning was spent by much of the group in the Cathedral, first at the Dressed for Drama costume exhibition in the chapter house, and then in the Cathedral library. The extensive collections there include the famous Worcester Fragments – one of the few remaining sources of thirteenth-century polyphonic music. Led by Dr Matthew Cheung Salisbury, the choir explored the Cathedral’s collections of medieval manuscripts and later printed editions, including an early publication of the Tomkins sung the previous evening! Our final Evensong included the Verse Service by John Heath and Purcell’s great verse anthem Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei, directed by Daniel Mathieson and accompanied by Thomas Allery. Afterwards the choir were thanked by the cathedral and presented with a facsimile of the Worcester Fragments as a token of gratitude.

Many thanks are due to Thomas Allery for his organisation of the trip, along with Alan Sheldon. Many thanks also to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral for inviting us to sing, and to the Cathedral Library for our access to their collections. Thoroughly enjoyed by all, this trip was a fitting end to the choir year.

 

– Dan Mathieson, Senior Organ Scholar.