Weather and Evensong

6 11 2011

I’ve been here for over a month.  I feel like I have some sort of authority to educate you, the (probably) American reader, about English weather (or at least weather in Cambridge).

My home of Kansas City is a prime example of ridiculous Midwest weather patterns, along with most of the state of Missouri.  As any of you who live there know, weather can and does change drastically.  KC also gets the worst of everything; freezing in the winter, boiling in the summer, rainy and volatile in spring and fall.  KC gets every type of precipitation imaginable, and has known to rain, sleet, and snow at the same time.

Now, let’s get this straight:  England’s got nothing on the Midwest and KC.  Emails and information packets from the University warned against the ‘unpredictable’ nature of the weather.  Well, that’s not that true.  When I arrived, it was hot, unseasonably so–high 70s-80s.  This sort of thing happens everywhere though; someone somewhere is having uncharacteristically ______ weather at this time.  It was nice for a while, but the temperature has descended and is now consistently 50s-60s (though today was colder).  Furthermore, everyone thinks England is rainy, and in the words of Geoff the 2nd horn player:  “It’s England.  It always rains.”  Well, I’ve only had to bike in the rain once, and I’m on my bike every day (more or less).  So…yeah.  Its been consistently cloudier than KC, but no ridiculous rain so far.

Not like this. Thankfully.

Yesterday I went with some of the Homerton Charter Choir, of which I am a member, to see choral Evensong at King’s College.  We did this because the King’s singers (not to be confused with the King’s Singers) were singing the Magnificat, Nunc Dimmittis, and the choral responses we are performing next week.  And because it is awesome.

You might be thinking to yourself “Awesome?  Evensong?  But you do it every two weeks, and aren’t you with a good choir anyway?”  Well, yes, we do it every two weeks.  But our choir is not to die for (we are not made up of choral scholars), and we don’t have a practically 600 year old chapel to sing in.

King’s College Chapel is one of the most iconic church buildings in the world, and is one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture that has ever been built.  Work on the building began in 1446 by King Henry VI.  The vaulted ceiling has a height of 80 feet, and the building is almost 300 feet long.  Here are some pictures:

Front of Chapel

Side of Chapel

I haven’t been inside it during the daylight, but this is what it looks like, stained glass windows and all:

The Chapel has the largest fan vault (type of ceiling) in the world.

The Previous Picture depicts only 2/3 of the Chapel.  There is another 1/3 beyond the doorway below the organ.

So, it is in this huge, amazing building that we go to see evensong.  The King’s College choir that performs evensong is an all-male choir.  College students make up the tenors and basses, but the altos and sopranos are made up of young boys.  This gives the choir a distinct sound, as the high parts exist despite the absence of female voices.  The room’s acoustics were fantastic.  Ringy and resonant, as one would expect from a chapel, but not enormously so.  Gano Chapel at Jewell has as much (if not more) reverberation despite the fact that it is only a thirdish of the size of King’s Chapel.

Evensong is not just a choral concert–it is a church service in which the choir has as a major part.  While I do not really like traditional services in which one can do all the various recitals week in and week out without truly meaning a word, I was struck by something (figurative) when attending Evensong.  Yes, the heavy-handed tradition and almost robotic progress of a service like Evensong (or in particularly traditional churches) isn’t the greatest place for worship in my opinion.  However, Evensong in King’s reminded me of a facet of Christianity that ‘modern’, hand-clapping-and-rocking-out churches forget.  Things that describe God include love, faithfulness, servitude, and kindness.  But God is also powerful, majestic, and awesome in the pure sense of the word–evoking awe.  We could do well to remember just how big God is, and while the King’s Chapel is obviously a man-made construct, the combination of an impeccably in-tune choir and such a magnificent building evoked in me a sense of God’s power and might.  Churches are not just places of worship–but there is a reason why men have built such amazing examples of architecture for their God.  He deserves it.

Evensong--fully lit by candelight

Afterwards, we got pizza.  I got the ‘American’.  Which was pepperoni, cheese, and sauce–normal.  But, I can say that, at the end of the night, I ate an American.

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