Being there: St. John’s Cantate Deo choir in England

Members of St John’s Cantate Deo choir traveled to England from July 29 to August 10, singing evensong services at Bristol, St Alban’s, Chichester, and Gloucester cathedrals. They were joined by friends from St John’s and other congregations, with extra-musical activities including a visit to Stonehenge, Roman ruins, and the occasional pub. The group, and their music, was warmly welcomed wherever they went. Here, chorister Margery Hunter reflects on the experience.

Words fail me. You had to have been there.

The soaring spaces, the exquisite stained glass, the graceful tracery, the hauntingly beautiful reverberation. Could this really be us, standing in the ancient choir stalls in the chancel of Bristol Cathedral?

Then the cantor intones “O Lord, open thou our lips….” We answer with stunning brilliance, “And our mouths shall show forth thy praise!”

The psalm is chanted in four parts by the choir, and the First Lesson is read.

The sopranos begin the eternally beautiful “Magnificat,” the Song of Mary, as she humbly accepts her destiny. The baritones thunder the message of the prophets: God will humble the mighty and raise up the poor and meek.

The Second Lesson is read as the gentle, quiet voice of the reader reverberates through the great cathedral.

Then a delicate, ethereal, prayer by the sopranos, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servants depart in peace…” and the altos confirm, “according to thy word.” The baritones enter and continue the story, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people. To be a light to lighten the gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

Then the prayers, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, Oh Lord,” and we answer each prayer with exquisite, four part “Amens,” each one becoming more beautiful and more complex as it soars into the distance.

The anthem: “Kyrie Eleison”

It is over. We file quietly out of the stalls, meet in the center of the chancel, bow, and depart two-by-two.

You had to have been there.

 

For more information about the Cantate Deo choir, go to our Music page.

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