Cynthia Snell recounts her Choir Holiday experience

No standard package holiday Our accommodation, in a convent school at Westgate-on-Sea, was spacious, although some of the bedrooms were so recently refurbished that the walls had not been painted and the windows lacked curtains!. There was a common room for the adults in which we could relax, sew, drink coffee, chat, watch choir videos and attempt to finish a seemingly impossible jigsaw puzzle.

Fortunately, the weather was mostly good – apart from the final evening it began to rain just in time for our barbecue and our visit to the local beach. when the wind blew up cold with the incoming tide. At the beach, most of us donned jumpers whilst the extra hardy took a dip in the sea.

Reculver Abbey

The usual busy programme was built around services at the Cathedral. Thanks to the minibus and creative car sharing, I think we all managed to be in all the right places at the right times. Dick Hewett packed in some interesting outings. Among them were Manston airfield and museum, Reculver, Dover Castle with its wartime tunnels and Whitstable, where several of us sampled delicious fresh seafood.

And of course, no choir holiday would be complete without a trip on a steam railway. This year, we rode on the Hythe, Romney and Dymchurch narrow-gauge railway, boarding at Hythe and travelling to the end of the line at Dungeness. In the small compartments, I realised that there are some advantages in being short!

The ride was fascinating: such a change in the scenery from the ordinary countryside around Hythe to the shingle landscape at Dungeness. As a keen gardener, I also enjoyed the chance to look into other people’s gardens as the train made its leisurely progress.

Most evenings gave time for relaxation but, having brought a sewing kit with me, I found myself repairing a pair of choirboy’s shorts which had been torn during an enthusiastic game of football. For the rest of the week, I watched him rather anxiously whenever games were in progress. Fortunately, all turned out well.

On several evenings, many of us visited a sea-front pub in Westgate. On the Saturday evening, we had a particularly memorable time when members of a wedding party in the pub’s function room plied us with platters of buffet food. After our unexpected second evening meal, there was still enough left over for us to take several doggy bags back to the school.

Supporters in the Quire following our concluding Choral Evensong

The highlights of the week came of course from the services. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the Quire for the practices. I visited the organ loft during the morning practice on Sunday. It was a really special feeling to be so close to our Abbey choir and hear them sing in Canterbury Cathedral.

My particular favourite was the final Evensong on Sunday 20 August, with Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn and a wonderful descant to ‘O Jesus I have promised’ arranged by Jeffrey Williams, our Organist.

Bravo to the retired clergyman who attended all of our services. After the Sunday Evensong he was heard to say, “Three cheers for Romsey Abbey Choir and may they return soon”. Hear, hear.