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On August 2, a contingent of Peterborough Singers arrived home from an exciting trip to York, UK, where they sang services at York Minster, the city’s cathedral church and one of the finest medieval buildings in Europe. Over the week, the Singers presented music at six evensongs (Thursday is a “dumb day,” which means that no music is sung and we had the day off.) And there were two additional services on Sunday, the Eucharist and matins.

This meant a huge amount of music learning over the spring and summer months for committed choristers: six separate settings of the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis (called Mag & Nunc, affectionately), seven sung psalms, and eight anthems, not to mention the hymns, the responses, and the other canticles and musical settings of the Anglican church services.

The music was varied too. Modern anthems included “The Spirit of the Lord,” composed by the Singers’ own Artistic Director Syd Birrell, and “O Nata Lux” by Morten Lauridsen. “Hosanna to the Son of David” by Thomas Weelkes, which the choir also sang, was composed much earlier. (Weelkes was appointed organist of Winchester College in 1598, moved to Chichester Cathedral in 1601 or so, but was dismissed “for being drunk at the organ.”)

Perhaps the most memorable experience for the choir was singing a cappella in York’s Chapter House. This was the first chapter house to be built without a central column holding up the roof (between 1260 and 1280). It is said that when the church officials of the College of Canons meet, sitting in the 44 seats around the Chapter House’s octagonal walls, they can hear one another whisper. I can believe it! The acoustics are amazing but very challenging, as the sound continues to reverberate long after it is made.

To learn more, check out the article by Jessica Nyznik, “Peterborough Singers in York, England, performing for the week as choir in residence at historic cathedral.” Or visit our Facebook page for some pictures.

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