Friday in London was an absolutely gorgeous day - mostly sunny with occasional puffy clouds drifting by. Temperatures reaching the mid 70's by the afternoon - ideal, really. With no official singing responsibilities scheduled, the Choir headed to the Tower of London for some sightseeing. The Tower is actually a Castle Complex which has served numerous purposes throughout its history, including a royal residence, an armory, a prison, and, a function it still serves today, the vault containing the fabulous Crown Jewels.
The boys particularly enjoyed the display of armor and weaponry which has belonged to various Kings throughout the centuries. The opulence of the Crown Jewels is overwhelming, and the Choir members were fascinated by them.
While they were exploring the Tower of London and learning more English history than they ever imagined, our guide, Clive arranged for the Choir to give a brief mini-concert in a nearby church - All Souls by the Tower. It is a lovely church with a fine acoustic. The sound the boys produced was excellent and enjoyed by those who had ventured in to see and pray in the church.
The next adventure was a cruise on the River Thames. Sitting on the upper deck of the open boat as it floated downstream was a wonderful way to take in the sights. The captain's first mate had a great sense of humor and kept everyone marvelously entertained as he pointed out the various landmarks on either bank.
The boat docked right as it arrived at Big Ben, the Parliament Buildings, and Westminster Abbey. The timing was perfect as it allowed the Choir to enter the magnificent abby just in time for the daily Evensong service. The service was sung very nicely by a College Choir from Chester, England. It was helpful for the boys to observe Evensong being performed so well just before they head off to Oxford for that very purpose.
Saturday morning, the weather was altogether different. There was a misty rain falling as the boys climbed aboard the bus. By the time it dropped them off at Buckingham Palace it was drizzling more steadily. There were thousands of people lining the streets all waiting to see the changing of the guard which was to begin in about 30 minutes. The Georgia Boy Choir staked out a position which would afford them a terrific view of the military band and soldiers on horseback as they paraded by. But as they waited the heavens over London opened up and released a tremendous downpour. There really was no place to take shelter, and after all, the boys all had their handy GBC rain jackets, so they just waited. Apparently, though, the military band does not play when it is raining, because when the appointed time arrived, the soldiers, their red uniforms covered with grey raincoats marched quickly by in silence. It was "Much Ado About Nothing" this time.
But the rain soon subsided, and the Choir made its way over to Trafalgar Square. Here sits the stately and beautiful Church of St. Martin in the Fields. The crypt underneath the church has been converted to a cafe, and it was here that the boys enjoyed a scrumptious lunch. Once again, Clive was busy finding opportunity for the Choir to do what it does best, and arranged with the verger of the church for them to give a brief concert after lunch. There were a good number of people already in the church and the number grew rapidly as the boys sang. They are clearly getting better with each opportunity, and there were several listeners seen wiping tears from their eyes.
Across the street sits the National Gallery of Art which of course houses a marvelous collection of some of the world's greatest art. One could spend days in the gallery and not see it all, so the Choir concentrated their time on the Impressionist paintings. It was remarkable how much they relished this opportunity. Clive encouraged them each to find their favorite picture and tell him which one it was and why. The boys took this assignment quite seriously and examined each painting carefully in order to discover their favorite one.
A short ride on the top of a red double-decker bus took the boys and young men to the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral to attend Evensong there. Upon arrival they were escorted to very special seats in the Quire, where they could see everything quite closely. It was the last service for the St. Paul's Choir before they break for summer holiday, and they were fabulous. Our boys from Georgia were very impressed, and glad to get to hear them sing - especially when the anthem began, and they recognized Hubert Parry's, "I Was Glad." It was marvelous.
After the service, the Georgia Boy Choir was invited to remain and sing a bit in the cavernous church. They assembled themselves on the steps under the second largest dome in the world, and sang David Hurd's hauntingly beautiful, "Love Bade Me Welcome." It was some of their best singing ever. Following this brief performance the Canon of the Cathedral declared that he hopes that they will be able to return some day to be Choir-In-Residence there. He said he found the GBC's singing to be particularly sensitive and moving - high praise indeed from one who is accustomed to hearing some of the choral singing in the world on a daily basis.
After a delicious meal at a very nice Italian restaurant, the bus carried the boys back to their hotel for their last night in London. In the morning, they will be bound for Oxford.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir England Tour Team