Choir Pilgrimage to the West of England
August 4-13, 2019
Day three (Wednesday) was all touring! Most of us had a full English breakfast (that includes bacon/ham, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, and sausage), before departing on our luxury coach for Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England.
Since about 757 AD, there has been a place of worship on the site of the current Wells Cathedral. Since 909AD, there is record of a boy’s choir, which is now Wells Cathedral School, which educated choirboys in singing of the Roman Catholic liturgy, now the Church of England. The boy’s choir has been a continuous and unbroken tradition since the 10th century, so the tour guide told us.
Though there was an abbey and a place of worship on this site since 757 AD, it has not continuously been called a Cathedral because the seat of the Bishop has changed over time. Following the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD, the Bishop’s seat was moved from the Wells to Bath. The seat of the Bishop then moved to Glastonbury (which we also visited on Wednesday) before settling at Wells in the late 12th century. It was then (1175 AD) that the current Cathedral building was built! Here are some photos from our visit:
Next on our Wednesday travels was Glastonbury. The English countryside is so beautiful as we drive along, and the tour in Glastonbury Tor gave many of us a bird’s eye view of the bucolic scene! Here are a few photos of the scene, as well as some of our singers taking the very steep hike to the Glastonbury Tor:
Glastonbury Abbey is the oldest Christian pilgrimage site in England. Legend says that in 60 AD, a church was planted near the site of Glastonbury Abbey, by Joseph of Arimathea. Today, Glastonbury Abbey is in ruins because of the dissolution of the monasteries (as well as all other monasteries in England), by Henry VIII in 1539. Two monks, at the time, and a bishop actually refused to give up their Abbey and were martyred (killed for their Catholic faith), as a result. Mostly the outline of the buildings is what can be seen:
Before we were to immerse ourselves in evensong for the next five days, we finished our Wednesday tour with dinner at Woods, a restaurant in Bath. Then some of the group went to the New Royal Theater in Bath for a show! The other half of the group opted for a stroll about Bath in the cool evening weather, by the River Avon:
On Thursday, we began our routine of daily Evensong, starting with Bristol Cathedral!
Our day began with a drive to Bristol, which was not too far down the road from Bath. The first half of the day was taken up by tours of the SS Britain and accompanying museum.
The River Avon runs through the middle of Bristol. The ship is right on the River Avon, and we could see Bristol Cathedral across the River, about a half mile away.
Finally…we made it to the location of the first evensong concert! Here is a photo of the west gate and twin bell tower of Bristol Cathedral:
Those were some very windy and small roads in Bristol for our big tour bus, but we made it there alive and well! We took a tour of the church before 5:15PM evensong, and spotted some beautiful stained glass. Here is the furthest point east in the Cathedral. In the Middle Ages, all the walls inside of the church would have been painted, just as the arches above the table are here. It is so difficult to imagine! These colors are not original to the church, but were artist renditions in the 19th century of what it may have looked like.
The evensong concert went very well. A bit of our repertoire included Craig Philip’s The House of Faith has Many Rooms and David Hogan’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. How could it not have gone well when we sang in a Quire like this!
Whew! One evensong checked off, four to go! More on Friday and Saturday later!