Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wolcum Yole!

If I'd been in Portland last night, I would have been at the annual Sing-Along Messiah at Central Lutheran. Singing that work with 700 other people puts me in the Christmas mood, and the final high note from the sopranos brings tears to my eyes (in a good way). It just doesn't seem like Christmas without the music, somehow.

Since I'm in London, I went to St. Paul's Cathedral instead, and listened to the Vicars Choral sing medieval plainchant and a William Byrd motet. It wasn't a complete service, but there was a short reflection by the Canon in Residence at the cathedral, the text of which I honestly can't remember. But I'm sure it was inspirational. I had an hour or so of reflection while waiting in line to get in to the cathedral; it was free, and I thought it would be a good idea to get there early, so I arrived shortly before 4pm for the 5pm service, and joined the line that had already stretched halfway down the side of the building.

Jesus showed up about fifteen minutes later, but he acted according to Matthew 20:16 and took his place in line. He left his spot a while later, and walked up to the front of the church and then back, his hand raised, but not in blessing - he was taking a video of the people in line with his iPhone camera, which undoubtedly had a direct high-speed connection to the great iAm.

After the the Canon spoke, the Choristers of St. Paul's Cathedral processed in from the darkness at the far end of the apse, chanting "Hodie, Christus natus est," their silvery voices spiraling up into the gold-reflected glitter under the central dome. They performed Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" and did a good job of it, too. I'm glad I got there early because I had a seat at the front of the nave (the seats in the central space were reserved for ticketholders) and could hear the harp and the singers even in the softer sections, and I was close enough to the dome to hear how the sound looped up and back down and up again, where it rolled along the Whispering Gallery for several seconds before fading away. I remember being up there, in the Gallery, on that long-ago high school field trip, and being amazed by the fact that I could hear one of my classmates speaking softly on the other side of the dome, as clearly as if she were standing next to me speaking directly into my ear.

The echoes were a little problematic in the already-echoey "This Little Babe" but the final triumphant major chord sent shivers down my spine (in a good way). I remember singing that, too, as one of the Manitou Singers at St. Olaf College back in 1981, at the annual Christmas concert. And I remember getting teary-eyed at our last choral practice session, when we sang "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You," which they're still singing today.

I miss singing.

It still doesn't feel like Christmas; there aren't any decorations up in the house here, and none on the street either in this suburb-y section of southeast London, though some people have lights in their windows, and there's a big decorated tree near Kidbrooke Station. I'm going to walk from Westminster Cathedral to Picadilly next Tuesday after lunch with my friend Pascoe, to see the Christmas decorations at Fortnum & Mason (and to buy myself a holiday treat) and since the sun goes down at about 3:50pm I'll have a chance to see the holiday lights sparkling in the streets of downtown London before I come back here to feed the ever-hungry cats.

Wolcum alle and make good cheer
Wolcum alle another year.

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