Yesterday was a good day. Despite a wake-up call which came earlier than any one wanted, the sturdy English breakfast had the 25 boys and young men of the Georgia Boy Choir revived and ready to go in no time.
Ely Cathedral is located in Cambridgeshire, a couple hours' drive north from London. It is one of the most remarkable Cathedrals in all of England. It is stunning in its beauty, and the enormity of it is overwhelming. The Choir arrived about 15 to 20 minutes before their 11:00 am rehearsal. They were preparing for a Lunchtime Concert in the Ely's Lady Chapel, an acoustically perfect jewel attached to the northern side of the Cathedral. It is in this room that the great British composer and conductor, John Rutter has made the majority of his recordings with the Cambridge Singers. The chapel is by far the largest such structure attached to any cathedral in England, and it is renowned for its nearly perfect acoustic.
Following a brief rehearsal wherein the boys were able to revive their jetlagged voices and receive important instruction for the impending recital, the Choir were treated to a guided tour of the entire cathedral. During this they learned much about the design and construction of the enormous edifice, and its history. They learned that it was during the English Reformation that all of the statues in the entire place were either removed or disfigured. In the Lady Chapel there are dozens of headless statues, rendered thus by the direction of King Henry VIII.
Upon returning to the Chapel for the Concert, the boys were delighted to see that a decent-sized crowd, maybe close to 100 people, had gathered to hear them. They opened with Gerald Finzi's bright and joyful song, "My Spirit Sang All Day." The boys' voices filled the hall with rich harmonies and crisp diction. The assembled crowd knew they were in for a treat. This was followed with a stirring arrangement of the American Folk Hymn, "Down In the River to Pray" which received strong applause. The majority of the songs programmed for this concert were written to be performed, "a capella," or without accompaniment, but on two songs, Scott Atchison ably supported the Choir on the small chamber organ which had been brought in. Particularly stirring was Giulio Caccini's "Dona Nobis Pacem."
After the concert, many from the audience were eager to speak their approval to the boys and their conductor. Among those, was Paul Trepte who is the Organist and Director of Music there at Ely Cathedral. He had high praise for what he had just heard. He said that the singing was, "simply beautiful," and the recital, "among the best he has heard." It was gratifying praise indeed from one so accomplished as he.
Following this good bit of work, the boys enjoyed sandwiches on the lawn beside the cathedral, before boarding the bus for the short drive to Cambridge, where they enjoyed an in-depth tour of the marvelous King's College Chapel. This sight will surely be among the highlights of their time in England. After arriving back at the hotel, the boys enjoyed another all-you-can-eat buffet before retiring to their rooms and their welcome beds. Spirits are high as they look forward to a day of sightseeing in London today.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir England Tour Team.