( Another story, based on real experiences – Warning: it may contain many additives to preserve the quality for your enjoyment) ie it’s somewhat exagerrated – but could happen..!
Think of the words “Choral Evensong” and a clear picture is built in your mind’s eye. A summer’s evening in a cathedral quire, the choir chanting impeccably in beatifully starched robes, the organ’s ethereal sounds wafting down from on high – effortless, serene, beautiful and dignified.
Most of us have had experiences of that sublime act of worship, many of us have the privelige of trying to achieve it regularly in our churches, chapels and cathedrals, holding on to the value that it has as part of our rich cultural heritage.
I have had many wonderful times taking a choir to sing Choral Evensong in a place that has never experienced one before. Often the church weren’t quite sure what to expect, but were alyays really grateful!
In my student days, I travelled with a choir to an extremely remote church, which was a fair distance from any recognisable town, village, hamlet or even a house. On arrival, I was not surprised that the church had not had a choir for centuries, and it was a feat that they had managed any worshippers or indeed visitors at all!
The vicar welcomed me and our singers like long-lost friends. He was a powerhouse of energy, and full of genuine, trembling excitement at the prospect of a visiting choir.
“Oh WOW! This is soooooo fantastic, that you’ve come here tonight. We’ve been looking forward to this for months. The ladies from the surrounding villages have prepared a spread for you and the choir. We’ve hired in some ‘portaloos’, the Army Cadets are supervising the car-parking, the St John’s Ambulance aren’t here yet. But the PA system is all set up.. Do you want to do the press conference now or afterwards..”
Yes, I’m sorry, I made that last bit up, but this vicar was really determined to enjoy tonight’s show!
He was sporting a delightful combination of a white frilly dress-shirt, huge bow-tie and white- jacket that cried out “Bingo-caller”. His introduction to the service, use of microphone and tone of voice, also called out “Bingo-caller”!
Here’s how it went:
Organ plays: “Rhosymedre” – (or at least, a version of it without pedals, as befitted the one manual nightmare box described in previous blogs).
SFX Microphone Click
Vicar: ” Wellllll – GOOD EVENING, LADIES ANNNND…….GENTLEMEN “
Congregation all respond “GOOD EVENING, VICAR”
“And have we got a real show for you tonight, Ladies and gentlemen? Yes, sirrreee, we sure have, all the way from ‘up North’ in Durham…. Pink Panther land…Durr-um, Durr-um, Durr-um,Durr-um,Durr-um…” Gedditt?”
SFX Drum Kit: Boom-tish!!
Congregation respond “GROAN”
“Anyway – on with the show. Please give a lovely warm welcome to none other than the choir of… wait for it, wait for it…. HATFIELD COLLEGE”
Congregation respond with over-enthusiastic cheers, wolf-whistles, and tear-stained faces.
( I swear I see one lady carried out by the St Johns’ Ambulancemen…)
” And on the organ for you tonight, their organ scholar, please raise the roof –
HEEEEERE’S… Adrian Marple…”
(Amidst equally excited noises, from behind an old curtain comes a rather embarassed, apprehensive organ scholar, not used to facing an audience, about to be interviewed by Mr Showbiz himself..
” So, tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your name and where d’you come from?”
“Hello everyone, my name’s Adrian and I’m from Durham..”
“So tell, me, now – Organs… are all organs the same, or are some different?”
” err, well… I suppose.. actually…”
” enough of that – what we all want to know is – have you got a girlfriend?”
“WHAT? err…No, not at the moment..”
” There you go, Brenda – you may be in luck tonight..!”
Congregation: Cheers all round, ( and a slightly dirty laugh from one or two ladies..)
” So, anyway. Back you go to the organ, Adrian and get yourself comfortable – Give him a big hand, ladies and gentlemen…. We have a lovely little service for you tonight, folks – a CHORDAL EVENSONG with tunes by Ayleward The canticles are going to be sung by Brewer in D…”
“..and someone called John is going to sing that beautiful hit-song from Ireland “Greater Love” – I love that one, don’t you?”
Congregation: “Oooh Yes!”
“Tonight’s Psalm will be that old favourite… Maggies’ Den, number TEN!
And the hymns will be… ( let’s have a bit of hush now, eyes down everybody, .. the best of order…..here it comes… TWO and EIGHT, twenty-eight. ….AND…..TWO little ducks…”
“twenty-two… Followed by…….Clickety Click, Sixty-six….and the last one, a bit of hush everyone – this could make someone’s night….two fat ladies – eighty-eight”
“OK, we’ll get someone over to check your ticket, Hilda. In the meantime – let’s start tonight’s show with some responses sung by our lovely visitors, ladies and gentlemen, with a solo – making his debut for you HERE TONIGHT – please will you welcome, Hatfield College and their soloist – MISTER PREE…..SENTER”
Congregation: (Wild cheers..)
PREE SENTER: “O Lord open thou our lips..”
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