Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week observed

Lady Chapel after Mass
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
The picture here comes from the beginning of my personal Holy Week, when I spent three days at the Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae. I have done this for more years than I care to remember, and the effect is always to prepare me mentally for the Triduum - the experience of which would be difficult if approached from the business of my mind in the latter weeks of Lent.

So what is so special? Maybe a simple account will suffice. We arrived on Monday, worn out physically by a week of car journeys, singing, grandparenting and socialising - all good fun, but cumulatively exhausting. We were appalled to find, that morning, that our tenor was completely unable to sing because of a bug, and that one of our fellow-residents in the College was absolutely dripping with the cold and in fact grew more ill as the days passed. We carried hand gel everywhere and took to sniffing First Defence like addicts. We have, after all, two concerts coming up, one voice to a part. We could not catch a cold. We were not happy, and we wanted to go home.

However, we had a job to do - we had undertaken to sing Evensong for the three days; the Warden is a good tenor and loves to sing with us (he says, though he is not always serious ...); we had +Kevin to cheer us and Jonathan Cohen to play for us. And so we rehearsed, we sang plainsong, we made sure it was as perfect as we could make it. We attended Morning Prayer before breakfast, and Mass before lunch. The sun shone, we took walks by the sea and to the top of the island. And gradually the peace took a hold and we felt ourselves begin to relax.

The quiet rhythm of such a life is something hard to find when we're at home. At the Cathedral, we are free to concentrate on beauty, stillness and prayer. We were responsible only for our music-making; the organisation was in other hands. There was no cooking to do, no shopping, no phone ringing. There were interesting conversations, as well as utterly hilarious ones.

And now we are back in our home parish, and the experience goes on. We have responsibilities again, but personally I am better able to deal with them for having had none. And I am grateful, as always, for the opportunity to make music and worship in one of the most beautiful churches I can imagine.

I've sung in Cumbrae for 41 years. I fell off my metaphorical donkey in the same choir stalls as I now inhabit, and was confirmed there in September 1973. I used to pine every time I left, until I learned that I was able to return when I needed to. I have met and talked to some of the most significant people in my life there.

And it is there that I sing plainsong. I love plainsong. I'll be back ...

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