Thursday, January 15, 2009

Choir tour 1990

Just been doing some admin on Flickr, and came across this, one of my favourite photos. Favourite because this was a good time in my life. A very good time indeed!

In this choir tour of 1990, to aid the cathedral restoration fund, we visited all seven Scottish mainland Episcopal (Anglican) cathedrals in one day, and sang a full unaccompanied choral service in each with completely different music each time.

What a day!

And it all started from an idea mooted in the pub after Evensong. La Taverna it was, now called The Lansdowne, not that it matters!

It was the idea of Frkenny I seem to remember, or if it wasn't his direct idea then he was intrinsic to the whole plan. He's the one holding the teddy bear in the front row. I identify him only because in his own Blog he seems happy enough to have his photo published.

There are others in the photo who have an online presence these days, either by their Blogs, like ChickPea, or on Flickr, like gordonrasmith, or suchlike, but they, like me, choose relative anonymity so I shall not identify where they are in the photo, or indeed where I am. Several of them in the photo are also my friends on Facebook, which as an aside I have found to be a really good method of re-contacting old friends, and keeping up to date with what they're up to.

From memory, we started with Mattins in Oban at around 6am, having travelled there the night before, then an exciting (!) coach ride (with some nursing hangovers) up to Inverness for more Mattins, then Aberdeen for Eucharist, Dundee for Evensong, Perth for probably Evensong again, Edinburgh for more Evensong, and back to Glasgow for Compline at something like 10pm.

Now that I type that it doesn't seem right. The cathedrals and the order we visited them is right, but I'm not sure if the type of service I've quoted for each is correct, there seem like too many Evensongs! Perhaps someone can correct me, or reassure me that I'm right?

Update 1845hrs: Thanks to Pencefn for correcting me. Edinburgh was Compline, not Evensong.

According to AutoRoute, it's about 392 miles, and if you click the map you can see the route in a little more detail. We went clockwise.

The final Compline back at a packed St Mary's cathedral in Glasgow was very moving, and there were few of us who could actually sing the words of the hymn "The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended" through the lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes. Or was that just me? No, I suspect not!

A recording still exists, I have one, but it was never meant for public distribution, since the quality is rather erratic, because due to the time scales involved we pretty much robed on the coach as we approached each cathedral, ran off and into the building where we processed straight into the service and sang it, processed out again and climbed straight back onto the coach. This left very little time for PH, and DW who are professional, no make that VERY professional, sound engineers to rush in and set up the recording equipment as we arrived and dismantle it afterwards before rushing back onto the coach. Oh, and they sang in the choir too! And I don't mean to suggest it's only the recording which was sometimes erratic, it was sometimes the singing too!

Many of the people in the photo above remain my closest friends, although for some we don't see each other terribly often. At the time though they seemed much more than friends, we were a family. Well, that's how it felt to me anyway.

Now that I look closer in fact, I can see that in the photo are my two best friends and three others who I consider amongst my very closest friends, one ex wife (still friends), one significant ex girlfriend (still friends), the man who generously and selflessly allowed me to live rent free in his flat (which he was rarely in) when my first marriage broke up and I was going through an extremely dark period in my life, the man who first introduced me to choral singing in the mid 1970's when he persuaded my brother and me to join the local church choir and who later persuaded me along to St Mary's cathedral choir, and the two men from whom I learned what little I do know about choral singing from 1983 when I joined the cathedral choir.

As well as that, if that weren't enough, there are people with whom I've shared some of the best days of my life (so far) with, some I've shared various levels of, shall we say, kisses and cuddles with (females, that is), and some who've supported me through the worst days of my life.

Occasionally the question is raised "in your mind, what age do you feel you are?" and there are various answers to that, usually round about the 18-21 mark. My answer is always "around 27-28" and I think that's because that's when I felt really happy, felt like I was starting to achieve something and thought things would remain exactly as they were. This photo was taken in 1990. I was 28.

This photo is a microcosm of a very significant part of my life.

And that's why it's a favourite.


  1. Yes Layclerk - too many Evensongs. Compline was sung in Edinburgh.

    I seem to remeber I was responsible for one of the stops up the Great Glen (between Oban and Inverness) when travel sickness got the better of me (and as you know I do not drink - so it was not alcohol induced). I think CW was aslo suffering at that point, but there were other mitigating circumstances at the time.

    My then girlfriend (now wife) was a student in the West Country at the time and took the sleeper to Inverness to meet to tour to be greeted by the news of my travel-sickness.

    Anyone fancy a re-run for the 20th anniversary.

    PS - I will need to look out the pictures I took.

  2. Hi

    It is amazing what choirs mean to us, I was chatting with a very dear friend on the phone on Sunday and she asked me had i ever been to York. All of a sudden i was transported back almost 20 years, singing evensong for a week in Ripon, York Minster and Selby Abbey with my school choir. There were 50 of us - about 20 tenors and basses, the rest girls, we had won Sainsbury's Choir of the Year the previous term, we had sung together through most of Grammar School and had the most amazing, moving, musical, loving, friendly week together.

    If I think of all the best times I have had there are choirs, singing and the friends made therein involved.

    thanks for a lovely post

  3. That was a wonderful post. What happy memories. My friend has just joined the St Mary's choir, I hope she has happy memories to look back on from there too.

  4. Thanks for the correction Pencefn, post duly updated. And yes, now you mention it I do remember a few puke-stops on that first leg! Looking forward to seing your photos.

    MDB, thank you, and you are 100% correct about choir memories.

    Jackie, thank you, and I'm sure in the future your friend will also have happy memories of St Mary's choir to look back on. This is clearly not the forum to name names and I wouldn't expect you to, but if you want to tell me who your friend is I will introduce myself to her. Not singing in the cathedral every week at the moment I'm not best placed to say who is brand new or not, so I can't guess. I suggest going to my webpage (there's a link from the Blog) and going to, for example, the "my choirs" page where there is a link to email the webmaster (i.e. me), and I'll reply to you that way. If you like.

  5. Oh yes one of the best days of my life. I hadn’t long started with the choir having just moved down from Aberdeen, couldn’t have guessed I would still be singing with the choir 18 years later.

    You could add to the list of names the photographer Monty an elderly gentleman who used a ancient bellows camera to take B&W photographs of extremely high quality around the cathedral. God Bless him !

  6. Me oh my, Lay Clerk !! You bin up in the attic again ?
    What a day that was, eh ! Pencefn is right about both Edinburgh and Glasgow getting treated to Compline - and it was at least 11pm when we processed up the aisle of Home Base.....
    (I blame the dust off the scaffolding for the lumps in the throats and the far from dry eyes.....)

  7. I remember the elderly gentleman gordonrasmith, but I'd forgotten his name. In fact, it might have been him who took this photo. I certainly have at least one other one in my Flickr photostream taken by him around this time. Black and White, as you say. I'll blog that soon, maybe.

    ChickPea, I have been in the attic of my mind, wallowing a bit. Times is hard.