28th August - 3rd September
a week, what a week
The weather was fine
The haute catering teams
The trip to the Isle
lump in our throats
The last glorious response
What a week, what a week
The Choir on tour
Forget Sydney 2000 for a minute and turn to the other important event of the year - Chichester 2000! When asked to write an article about the choir’s tour to Chichester, my first thought was that having been so close to the organisation for so long, I was the wrong person to approach. Two weeks later I am of the same opinion, but here goes! Others who supported the choir throughout the week are making a contribution elsewhere and hopefully will comment on the musical side in an unbiased way. Certainly the choir were delighted to receive glowing thanks from the retired Bishop, the Right Reverend Morris Maddocks, Prebendary of Bracklesham, who actually led a number of the services in Chichester Cathedral and sat in the congregation for others. His generous praise for the choir included a wish that we might return to sing for them again.
A total of 53 people were involved in the week, most of them for the duration. Thirty set off after morning service on 27th August in a coach heavily loaded with luggage, robes, anthems books and bedding rolls (read on!). The remainder drove down by car. There was an average of 33 choristers singing for every service including five visiting girls from St Elphin’s School Choir, ex-St Peter’s choristers Richard Stuart (on loan from St James, Louth) and Gary Freer, both of whom we were extremely happy to see again, Robert Taylor (Chris’s brother) who deputised for him at two services and Charlie Donnelly, a Canadian tenor who sings in Ottawa’s Anglican Chorale with which Andrew Teague is associated and who was between choir tours in England. Rebecca Baggaley, an ex-Head Chorister, travelled down by train just to sing in the three Sunday services and John Lord was lured back to sing for the latter part of the week! John, together with June, Pat Mason and Sheila George kept a watchful eye on the choir throughout the week on behalf of the congregation and it was delightful to welcome Andrew and Fran Deuchar down for the day on Bank Holiday Monday. Different anthems and settings were sung at each of the seven services, full details of which are given below. A total of 14 psalms were sung over the week (including 40 verses of Psalm 119!). Each chorister climbed at least 2,000 steps during the week to and from the Song (Practice) Room high above the South Aisle - a total of around 70,000 steps!
As an aside, the journeys to and from Chichester tested the navigational awareness of those (mainly the School party) travelling by coach. Missing his planned turn off the M1, the driver continued to Luton and then cut across country at one time seemingly driving more homewards than to the south coast. On the return trip - with a different driver - Luton was again passed on the M1 as the driver nursed a sick coach along a relatively flat route and then had to avoid heavy congestion on the M25 by taking the longer anti-clockwise route via Dartford Tunnel. Warning parents of our late arrival was no problem as all the youngsters seemed to have at least one mobile phone!
Whilst some of the party rented self-catering accommodation or booked bed & breakfast, thirty of the braver members of the party - including all the children - moved into The Prebendal School, the majority sleeping in dormitories named Long, Tarring, St Edmund’s, Bell, Juxom, St Wilfrid’s and St Richard’s. Those in School were amply catered for, under the untiring culinary leadership of Christine Stevens and Sue Baker, ably assisted by Cynthia Charter, Ian Matthews and Janet (Charlie’s wife) plus a number of other ‘volunteer’ helpers and washer up-ers. Mark Stevens produced breakfast one morning with, it is rumoured, the unauthorised addition to the menu of fried eggs! The whole party, including the non-residents, enjoyed a memorable Italian Evening comprising a meal and short, informal concert.
The pastoral care of the children was in the capable hands of Jean Thomas with her (frequently used) supply of yellow cards for use as bedtime approached (and passed!) and with her accident book at the ready (nothing serious, though). Jean also doubled up during the week as organist’s assistant and piano accompanist. The School boasts at least four pianos and music was much in evidence throughout, including pre-breakfast practices from Maestro Mike as he prepared for his daily renderings at the Cathedral organ. A bonus for those supervising the children was the School’s hotel-standard outdoor swimming pool which kept the youngsters occupied for a couple of afternoons.
Away from the formality of the Cathedral routine, the choir - together with a few faithful followers from our congregation making a party of 49 people in all - enjoyed a full day visit on Wednesday to Ryde in the Isle of Wight which, after a meal together, concluded with the choir giving a successful and well attended concert at All Saints’ Church before (literally) dashing for the last catamaran ferry. The results of privatisation (separately) of the rail and ferry companies nearly brought disaster as the ‘connecting’ train back to Chichester - on which we were pre-booked - didn’t wait the two minutes for the disembarking ferry passengers to reach the platform. A hurried change of plans saw us literally bundled onto a train to Havant in the hope of catching a connecting train to Chichester. Past 11pm on a deserted Havant Station (all facilities locked for the night) with a party of youngsters was no joke but fortunately a train finally arrived and we were back just before midnight. Havant Station was a bit like Arthur Ridley’s ‘Ghost Train’ set and we seemed to be further haunted by the experience the following Sunday back at St Peter’s when singing ‘the meanest station owned him not…’ ‘yet in lone places forced to stray’ (Hymn 335).
Another full day excursion for a 40-strong party was undertaken on Saturday to the Historic Shipyard at Portsmouth Harbour, visiting the ‘Mary Rose’ and ‘HMS Victory’ amongst other attractions with perhaps the highlight being a 45-minute cruise around the harbour viewing many of our (and one American) serving naval ships. Also, the junior choristers spent a pleasant few hours one afternoon at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester, which comprises over 40 regional historic buildings restored and rebuilt on a 50-acre site.
This article deliberately concentrates on the less formal aspects of the tour but underpinning all this activity was the prime duty of preparing for and singing in the Cathedral services and it was to the credit of all that this went tremendously well. Thanks are due to Andrew Teague for conceiving the venture and directing the music during the week. Also to Mike Leuty for his skill at the organ throughout and to James Randle, Timothy Teague and Elizabeth Hayward for their organ voluntaries. On a personal note, I would like to thank all those who accepted the inevitable organisational demands (including regular roll-calls!) and for all who assisted in any way during the week, or beforehand in the case of Karen Davys who had responsibility for the robes, including new cassocks that needed last minute adjustments. We now look forward to our next visit, another All Saints’ Church, this time off Arboretum Street on 1st November for their Patronal Festival and the Licensing of Revd Gilly Myers, their new Priest-in-Charge.
A memorable visit
June and John Lord had travelled down by car with Pat Mason and were at Chichester Station to meet me and take me to the house we were all sharing for the week. I had enjoyed the journey by train and we were all looking forward to hearing our St Peter’s Choir singing the services in the Cathedral. John was to sing with them for most of the time.
The Choir party arrived on the Sunday and began singing on Bank Holiday Monday. We were there ready to join in the worship as the choir processed in and took their places in perfect order. I’m sure they were delighted to notice the presence of our new Rector Andrew and his wife Fran; it really was lovely to see them. All the choir, from the soloists down to the youngest chorister sang with such perfection, accompanied by the excellence of the organist that the resultant sound echoing around the ancient cathedral was a very moving experience. The Psalms, Canticles, Anthem and the responses were all executed with reverence and skill. When the response “Thanks be to God” rang out we felt part of a wonderful act of worship. And so it was every service, never dull, always fresh and meaningful and inspiring.
I had arrived in Chichester in pouring rain, but from the Sunday morning the weather changed and became hot and sunny for the whole week apart from one shower on the Friday. With our friend Beryl who lives near Chichester we visited many local attractions. Whilst we enjoyed ourselves, the choir had very little spare time as they rehearsed thoroughly each day.
On the Wednesday, we all caught the train and then the ‘Cat’ to the Isle of Wight. There the choir were to perform a concert at All Saints Church Ryde at 7.30 in the evening. The choir and organists rehearsed all morning, then had a little time off in the afternoon to enjoy the sand, sea and sunshine. We spent a happy time in the garden of June and John’s friends, Irene and Geoff who lived at Ryde. Everyone met for a meal at the ‘Poppins’ Restaurant which was most enjoyable. The concert was very well attended and enjoyed by all. The programme was a delightful mix of ancient and modern, sacred and secular and showed off the very many talents in the St Peter’s world of music. We truly are so blessed in this area. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Cat’s Duet’ by Rossini sung by Adele Charter and Amelia Teague. John Rutter is a particular favourite of mine and when at the very end the choir sang “The Lord bless you and keep you” we did indeed go away feeling specially blessed. It had been a very long day for the choir, especially the little ones. They were very late to bed that night but by the next day were singing again like angels.
I would like to thank all who made the week such an enjoyable one; the Choirmaster, the Organists, the Organisers and helpers and last but not least the choir, who worked so hard to give praise and glory to the Lord in Chichester Cathedral where a tradition of music and praise has been around for centuries. I think it will always be a joyous memory for everyone.
View from the organ loft
The week at Chichester was of the most stressful, uplifting, difficult, fulfilling and wonderful experiences I have ever had. It was a pleasure and privilege to accompany our choir on such a glorious instrument, though my skills were taxed to their limits. I particularly remember the thrill of supporting a large congregation singing the last verse of "All people that on earth do dwell", and the sound of the 32' pedal reed stop digging in at the climax of Sumsion's "They that go down to the sea in ships".
I am grateful to Mr Alan Thurlow, the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Chichester; who made me feel at home, showed me some of the historic pipework in the organ, and gave me some excellent advice. This included directions to the Park Tavern, whither the older members of the choir and I repaired every evening.
28th August 2000,
Recordings of the choir
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Directed by Andrew Teague, organ Michael Leuty.