Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gloria in Excelsis

Our parish church is one of my favourite spaces. Its not grand, or opulent or well known. In fact its rather simple. Plain stone exterior, whitewashed walls inside. The ceiling inside is basic oak beams and unadorned panels.

What it is, is old. Christ has been worshiped here since the 600s. The walls of the Lady's chapel date to Norman times. There have been extensions and extrusions since. Its had a number of fires, was bombed by the Germans, has been hit by lightening. Little of the furniture and fittings are aged (other than the stone baptismal font, which is very very ancient (all three kids where baptised in it)). Much is refitted and fixed.

Yet for all that it is a place that you walk into and relax. It has a peace about it that is hard to define. We aren't weekly parishioners, just do the high days and holidays. That doesn't stop me loving it.

Last night was one of my favourite services. It was the annual carol concert. The vicar organises it around 9 readings. All of the old carols are done. But its a bit more than that too.

For reasons I've never inquired too deeply about we have a... uhmm... sort of good organist. Why he isn't at one of the cathedrals I really don't know. I think it has a bit to do with the organ. Its only decades old. The ancient one didn't survive the Germans. We're a fairly well off parish you see, so the fund raising was pretty successful, therefor its a rather special organ. The church also has quite stunning acoustics. I think it all suites him. He teaches with the Royal College you see, and it is his personal duty to "have" a church I think.

Also, we have lots of old choristers living about, plus some of his students. At Christmas, for this service, they all come out of the woodwork. So, this is one of the times of the year when the master gets to play. Both modern and ancient are done, and there must always be a Vaughn Williams (he was local).

It rocks... Literally. That organ thrums through your body, and those voices fill the space in a way that you feel as much as hear. I love to sing, but don't at this point in my life have the time to do much (other than warbling at and with the kids (who warble back (we're a noisy household))). Last night I got to join in with some of the best, and listen to them too. Today I'm just content.


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