Well, choir week is over for another year. This year was as good as any I’ve been on, and certainly felt very different, being on home turf in Hereford.
I’m pleased to say the clergy and staff at Hereford have been the most welcoming of any cathedral we’ve been to. It may be because whilst some cathedrals and chapels have more visiting choirs than they really know what to do with, Hereford seems to find itself bereft of singers for long stretches at a time. Next week, they have no choir at all, and they will be having their main service said next Sunday. So when choirs do arrive, they are welcomed with open arms, invitations to sherry in the Precentor’s lovely garden and fed tea and biscuits after their rehearsals.
And whilst many cathedrals have invited us back to spend more time with them, Hereford is the first to do so during choral evensong itself!
Being in Hereford meant staying with my parents was most economical. The constraint of catching the last train home meant I drank less and slept more than in some previous years, but it is still somehow very tiring to spend seven days concentrating on singing and standing up for long stretches of time. I must definitely get fitter!
And once again I am better acquainted with my singing voice. I no longer sing at all between annual choir weeks, which mean my voice needs exercise, and going from nothing to singing for 6 hours a day every day is a strain. It’s strange how day to day, my range changes. At the fullest I can get from F above middle C to C two below in my main voice, and get much higher in falsetto. But by the time evensong comes around, many of the extreme notes will be missing, and I have to be careful not to crack in exposed places. So much singing with so little preparation is actually painful, and at the end of it, my speaking voice sounds raw. And I have a nasty feeling of dangling things hanging around my tonsils that I can hear vibrate when I sing. Urgh.
It’s also amazing what being surrounded by really good singers can do. This year, I was propped up by a bass with perfect pitch who could come in reliably and find weird notes with no problem. I’m not an excellent singer, in that I can’t hold a part entirely on my own, but near people who are, I can be a very useful additive volume.
We’ve had our share of odd bible readings this week at evensong. We’ve had a full set of readings about King David, from being chosen, to beating Goliath, to leading the Jews. Who knew that David had a ruddy face and beautiful eyes? (1 Samuel 16 v 12). By the end of the week, we had David meeting Jonathan, and having their souls bound together (1 Samuel 18). We also got a particularly steamy passage from the Song of Soloman.
And of course we found ourselves chanting very odd phrases from the psalms:
- He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.
- Deliver me from the hand of strange children
- I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
Etc, etc. There’s never any shortage of strange passages to sing.