Monday, August 23, 2010

England 2010

The lack of posting recently is mainly because I've been enjoying my fourth visit to the United Kingdom (1st/2nd/3rd), this time focused on Wiltshire. I arrived on Thursday and spent the weekend at Sarum College in Salisbury, where I toured and attended services at the magnificent Cathedral and visited numerous fascinating attractions including the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Mompesson House, and The Rifles (Berkshire & Wiltshire) Museum. It was a marvelous three days.

The main reason for my trip, however, is the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy, a unique week at Edington's gorgeous 14th-century Priory Church featuring four choral services a day (generally Matins, Mass, Evensong, & Compline) sung by three superb choirs incorporating some of the best singers from all over England: a men's chant schola, a choir of men & boys, and a choir of men & women. The three services I've attended so far (last night's opening Compline and today's Matins and Solemn Eucharist) have been stunning. As I posted on Facebook, imagine at night a medieval stone church lit only by candles in which the haunting sounds of plainsong echo from somewhere beyond the ancient choir screen, and then a single boy treble intones the first verse of a Latin hymn, the service later concluding with "Totus tuus" by Henryk Gorecki gradually diminishing to the sort of pianissimo that only the most polished singers can pull off. Then imagine mass the next morning as the sunlight streams through the windows illuminating clouds of incense to the sounds of polyphony by Victoria and Byrd. That's the Edington Music Festival.

Edington is a small village surrounded by idyllic English countryside. I'm staying in a beautiful bed & breakfast, parts of which date to the Tudor era, run by the wife of a former military equerry to HRH the Prince of Wales; his family have served King (or Queen) and Country for at least eight generations. I could not think of a better way for a devotee of England and sacred choral music to spend a week.

(Anyone curious about the Edington Music Festival can listen to tomorrow's Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3, live at 4 PM in the UK which is 11 AM US Eastern/10 AM US Central.)

1 comment:

May said...

It sounds like you are having a marvelous trip. I envy you!