We enjoyed a successful visit to Wells Cathedral, where we sang for services over the Bank Holiday weekend. Although the weather was far from summery, we received a very warm welcome from cathedral clergy. In saying goodbye at the end of our final service, the Archdeacon of Wells, the Venerable Nicola Sullivan, invited us to return again soon and Louis, the cathedral cat, walked past during our final dismissal: this was apparently a rare event and an honour!
Our musical offering ranged from plainchant and unaccompanied Tudor anthems, through favourite anthems such as Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn, to a range of settings of the canticles sung at Evensong, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.
Perhaps the biggest musical challenge of the week was the Collegium Regale setting of the Te Deum and Jubilate Deo, composed by Herbert Howells for King’s College, Cambridge. They included some quite exposed passages, complex harmonies and tricky syncopations, all of which had to be negotiated during Mattins after we had already sung for the Eucharist. The boys in particular rose magnificently to it.
Even though hours of practice went into the music, it wasn’t all hard work and the choir enjoyed visits to the East Somerset Railway, Ebbor Gorge and Wookey Hole.
The boys made the most of their taste of boarding school life at Wells Cathedral School, sleeping in dormitories and playing team games before meals. They impressed catering staff with their good behaviour. The Cathedral Vergers also commended their appearance, noting in particular that they all wore smart black shoes rather than trainers!
Robert Fielding comments, ‘Our visit to Wells has been very worthwhile. An intensive routine of morning and afternoon practices, as well as singing a cathedral service each day, has proved to be a great experience for the boys. Adrian Taylor played the cathedral’s superb organ skilfully and as usual on a choir holiday visit, we have noticed a marked improvement over the course of the week in the boys’ singing and look forward to building on this back in Romsey’,
The Vicar agrees: ‘It has been a fantastic opportunity for the choir, as I saw when I visited Wells last week; I’m proud that they’re able to spread the good name of Romsey and the Abbey far beyond the town.’
Choral Services at the Abbey resume today. Robert Fielding would like to hear from any tenors and counter-tenors (male altos) who would be interested in joining the choir as there are currently a number of vacancies; please phone 0787 944 3060 for further details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.