It’s over 3 weeks since my last post. Last week Robin and I were in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Lewes Singers were to have sung the services in the Cathedral over the Bank Holiday weekend, but of course that was cancelled nearly 2 months ago. But we had a holiday cottage booked for the week, so took it as our Summer holiday.
While we were up there we visited Ripon Cathedral (obviously); Fountains Abbey, which is a vast but well preserved ruins of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1120. We spent a day in York, visiting the cathedral and having lunch in the Guy Fawkes Inn (where the man was born). And on our last day we visited RHS Harlow Carr – a lovely garden where we were able to satisfy my need to visit at least one of the many iterations of Betty’s Tea Rooms in Yorkshire. I was not disappointed. Lovely service, a nice cup of Costa Rican coffee and a chocolate eclair. Robin, to her credit, resisted temptation and stuck with a cup of tea.
When we got into York Minster we found that they are having their organ renovated. A two year project being done by Harrison and Harrison at a cost of £2 million. It’s nearing completion and I was able to talk to some of the builders as they were on site.
By the way, I’m very happy to report that the organ rebuild at St Michael’s Lewes got underway two weeks ago. Costing somewhat less than 2 million, it’s scheduled to take 2 months rather than two years, and should be completed by early November.
And returning to our holiday, we visited Masham, home of the Black Sheep Brewery, where I was able to enjoy a very nice pint.
In the last few weeks I’ve got really excited by the prospect of choirs getting together again, albeit in a distanced way. In fact, as I write, Lewes Chamber Choir is still hoping to get one meeting in, just a few hours before Boris’s new rules come into place. The East Sussex Community Choir were going to meet at the end of September in their new venue – Lewes Town Hall. New Sussex Opera were hoping to begin rehearsals…………and then yesterday happened, dashing all our hopes, which seems so unfair to me, given that the virus has been kept so well controlled in this part of the country.
I did have a lovely rehearsal yesterday in Lewes. John Tomlinson and Alex Kidgell with the Baroque Collective (and me playing piano and harpsichord all on a Yamaha keyboard) met at St Michael’s to prepare for a concert in Grange Gardens on Sunday late afternoon. We played the Frost Scene from Purcell’s King Arthur; Handel: Acis and Galatea; Mozart arias; and an aria from Wagner: Meistersinger, all at baroque pitch of course!!! We all felt it was lovely and such a relief to once again be doing what we all love. Sadly, it looks like being a brief last hurrah.
I’ve just been reading an article in Church Music Quarterly (I know how to have a good time), Hymns and Natural Disasters: Reflections on a pandemic in which J.R Watson describes how pandemics in the past have often inspired hymn writers. Philipp Nicolai apparently wrote How brightly shines the morning star and Wachet auf, rift und der Stimme (Zion hears the watchmens voices) during an outbreak of the plague in 1597. And clearly pandemics of the past have often been much more severe than Covid-19 has so far been, often causing closure of universities, businesses and causing great economic hardship. And yet life does return, and so with it, human endeavour, aspiration and inspiration.
There is, or will be, light on the horizon.