Westminster Abbey, Day 8

A simple farewell.  The choir bid a glorious farewell to the abbey with yet another beautiful Evensong on Sunday evening.  My farewell, however, was rather quiet – Morning Prayer in Saint Faith’s Chapel at 7:30 this morning.  Tucked away in the South Transept, the Chapel is marked by the remarkable six-foot tall, late-13th century painting depicting the crowned figure of the saint that adorns the east wall above the altar.  Little known by many today, Saint Faith was a late 3rd century martyr, said to have been burned in a grid-iron for her refusal to recant her face during the persecutions of Diocletian.  After the final words were said, and a few hugs and handshakes with new friends, I made my way through the silent nave and out the west doors and look one final time at the figures that stand above the great doors:  Maximilian Kolbe (Poland), Manche Masemola (South Africa), Janani Luwum (Uganda), Grand Duchess Elizabeth (Russia), Martin Luther King jr. (USA), Oscar Romero (El Salvador), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Germany), Esther John (Pakistan), Lucian Tapiedi (Papua New Guinea) and Wang Zhiming (China).

Westminster Abbey, Day 5

“How then can mortal tongue hope to expresse the image of such endlesse perfectnesse?” (text from A Hymn of Heavenly Beauty by Edmond Spenser; setting by William Harris)

These words, which concluded Friday’s anthem, raise a fair question:  how are we to convey the beauty and goodness and perfection of God who exceeds all things?  Certainly, the splendor of the Abbey point us in one direction.  For centuries now, millennia actually, men and women and faith have established and adorned places of significance to retell and reveal the story of God’s goodness in creation.  Westminster, of course, does this with remarkable grandeur – from the fan-vaulted ceiling of the Lady Chapel to the remarkable detail of the Cosmati pavement beneath the high altar.

Westminster Abbey, Day 4

Morning and Evening Prayer at the Abbey. 

In some ways, Morning and Evening Prayer at the Westminster Abbey could not be more different. 

Each evening of the week, hundreds of visitors, three- to four-hundred in fact, fill the north and south transept to hear to beauty of our prayers sung at the end of the day.  Beginning at 4:30 pm, the west gate opens and the large crowd which had been queuing up since 4pm starts filing in.  Within minutes the quire is full, and by 4:50, every seat in the transept is taken, and the vergers are left to look for any remaining seats.  And still they come, the last visitors arriving well after the service has begun. No matter how quiet we tried to be, a crowd of four-hundred is noisy; we stand and we sit, we move and we shuffle.  Add to the natural movement that of four hundred worshipers, the prayers which we recited together, the Lord’s Prayer and Confession and Creed, and evensong almost becomes loud! 

Westminster Abbey, Day 2

In spite of singing eight services with accompanying rehearsals in the Abbey, the Schola may spend even more time behind the scenes in the rehearsal room at Cheney gates where they will fret not only over notes and tempo, but consonants and breaths. As with so much of life, it’s here, behind the scenes, where the bulk of the work is done.  Here’s a little peek at the morning rehearsal, where the choir moves from their warm-ups exercises (AH’s and numbers, and the ever fun “Copper Bottomed Coffee Pot”) to the beauty of their prayers in song.

Westminster Abbey, Day 1

At 5:00 pm this evening twenty-nine choristers and choir members quietly entered the chancel of Westminster Abbey to take their part in an ancient rhythm of daily prayer.  

In fact, for over a thousand years, as the Abbey grew up around them, worshippers have gathered here to offer their daily prayers, prayers which expressed not only their deepest desires and most profound sorrows, but their daily worries and seemingly simple burdens, with the confidence that no prayer is too large, nor any too small, for the caring heart of God.

Welcome to the Choir Trip 2017!

Welcome to the blog of the Christ Church Schola's trip to England 2017! We are very excited to share our experiences with you as we travel together as pilgrims to some of the most beautiful sacred spaces in the world. We will be in residence, singing services at Westminster Abbey from July 24-30 and Salisbury Cathedral from July 31-August 5. If you won't have an opportunity to hear us in England, we invite you to:

​Bon Voyage Concert
Christ Church Grosse Pointe
​Friday, July 21, 7 pm
Freewill Offering

Hope to see you there!

Barcelona, Montserrat, and Home Safe

After a whirlwind of a week, it was finally time to visit our last city, Barcelona. It was clear when we first arrived that Barcelona was worth the wait. An incredibly vibrant, historic, and happening city. There was so much to see and do and, sadly, we only had two days to get it all in!

Quick stop in Zaragoza on our way to our final destination: Barcelona

Lately some of us have been reflecting on the role of Mary in the Christian faith. As the choir sings in Spanish churches we've been noticing the statues and paintings depicting Mary. We've been noticing how she's often dressed in blue. We've been reflecting on our own piety and the place that we offer to Mary. We've had some conversations about whether the virgin birth actually happened. 

Toledo and concert in Chin Chon

Today we visited the city of Toledo. Our first stop was the Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes. It is a 15th-century Franciscan monastery and church where our choir sang at the 1pm Eucharistic service. The choir did a fabulous job. Although we might not all have understood every word in the service, the structure of the liturgy was familiar to us and praying together felt like a good thing at this turning point in the trip.

El Escorial and concert at the Catedral Magistral

After a hearty breakfast, we headed out of Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. El Escorial is a palace-monastery, designated a world-heritage site by UNESCO. It was ordered to be built by King Philip II in the 16th century. It is currently still the site of an Augustinian monastic community. It has two royal apartments, one each for the king and queen of Spain. Each apartment is located on either side of the sanctuary, right beside the altar (King Philip II could take communion from his bedroom).