The St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir of Boys and Men is one of the finest choral ensembles in the world. For centuries, those singers have attained the very highest standard of excellence as they have sung the daily services in one of the most magnificent edifices of worship anywhere in the world. Three years ago, in the summer of 2011, when the Georgia Boy Choir was passing through London, on the way to Oxford, they attended a Choral Evensong service at St. Paul’s. Following the service, boys from Georgia remained behind to sing one song in that rarified space. Upon hearing them, the Canon of the Cathedral said, “Would you please come to St. Paul’s to be Choir-In-Residence some time whilst our choir are on holiday?” And so, three years later 30 members of the Georgia Boy Choir have returned to England to fulfill that request.
Before heading to London and St. Paul’s, the Choir is spending the week in and around Shropshire in west England with its bucolic rolling hills filled with wheat fields and sheep pastures. Their home for the week is the Tudor-style residence hall of Bedstone College in the little village of Bucknell, not far from the town of Ludlow.
The first performance of the tour will be tomorrow (Monday) at Chester cathedral, so for today, they were tourists. Just a short drive away, and across the border into Wales is the ruin of Chepstow Castle high on a hill above the River Wye.
Built in 1070 by the Normans and added to during the Gothic period, it now is a splendid place for young boys to explore and imagine living there 900 years ago.
After a picnic lunch on bank of the river, the Choir then toured the incredible ruins of Tintern Abbey. During the 16th century, Tintern Abbey was a thriving Cistercian monastery, but fell victim to King Henry VIII and his disillusion of the monasteries in England. Imagine if you will, a large, gothic, cathedral-like structure with the roof missing, and the stained glass gone, but with most of the walls still standing and grass growing where the floor once was.
t is remarkably picturesque, and somehow, even with the open ceiling, the acoustic is still very nice. As is their custom, the Georgia Boy Choir sang one song for their own enjoyment as well as for those lucky enough to be within earshot. Afterward, one of those standing nearby introduced herself as a photographer who had been hired by a young man to take pictures as he proposed to his sweetheart who would be there any minute, and she wanted to know if the Choir could sing as he popped the big question.
The boys in the Choir took great delight in waiting surreptitiously while the unsuspecting couple made its way to the designated spot in the nave of the once vast edifice, and when the gentleman dropped to one knee and presented the ring, burst into a joyous rendition of Gerald Finzi’s “My Spirit Sang All Day” as the two lovebirds embraced.
It was marvelous, serendipitous moment. The photographer blogged about the experience here.
Upon returning to their splendid quarters at Bedstone College, there was time to engage in a rousing game of soccer as well as ultimate Frisbee out on the school’s cricket pitch. Everyone agreed it had been a wonderful day, and went to bed rested and looking forward to tomorrow’s Choral Evensong performance.
If the necessary technical arrangements can be made, the service will be webcasted live via this page: http://www.georgiaboychoir.org/live Please “like” the Georgia Boy Choir on Facebook in order to be sure not to miss the announcement of that broadcast.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir
2014 England Tour Team