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03rd September 2009

College Choir sings in Westminster Abbey

Becca Rees (2008, English)

On 1st September, Exeter’s Choir met in Westminster Abbey to sing Evensong. Here, a member of the choir shares her experiences of the performance, and of the wonderful opportunity to explore hidden parts of the Abbey.

After a morning of rehearsals (and a sartorial near-disaster on the part of our incoming Organ scholar, who managed to come to London with neither suit nor gown!) we had an opportunity to look around the innermost parts of this wonderful Cathedral. Our Chaplain, Helen Orchard, is also a visiting priest at the Abbey, and was thus able to show us the tomb of Edward the Confessor, not normally open to the public. We also spent time exploring Poets’ Corner and paying due respect to certain Choir-favourites, such as Herbert Howells and Charles Villiers Stanford, who are memorialised in the Abbey.

Evensong was attended by the High Commissioner of Malaysia as well as members from College and supporting parents and friends, so it was an exciting occasion. As well as singing Purcell’s g minor Canticles and Ayleward preces and responses, we sang one of Tippett’s Five Negro Spirituals, Deep River. The acoustic carried the rousing sound of this motet with gravitas, and it was a pleasure to sing together for the first time after the summer in this setting. It truly whetted our appetite for our tour to the East Coast of America.

After the service, we laid a wreath at the memorial of George Gilbert Scott, who redesigned part of the Abbey (as well as designing Exeter College Chapel!). It was a touching part of this year of anniversary celebrations of our Chapel’s consecration, and a wonderful way to see one of England’s most important sacred landmarks.

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