by Matthew Glandorf
The word Religion is derived from the Latin "religio" which means to "link back". It is fundamentally about connections and connecting to the life sustaining sources in which we all participate. In that sense, our trip to England was truly a Pilgrimage. For many of our choristers this was their first trip to England, let alone to Europe. I believe we all became acutely aware that we were participating in a daily round of offering sung prayer that is centuries old, in a sacred place in which the very fabric was saturated with prayer.
During our week, those stones echoed with the same words;
"O Lord, open thou our lips"
"O Lord, make speed to help us"
"Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost"
"My Soul doth magnify the Lord"
"He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts"
"He hath filled the hungry with good things"
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace"
"to be a light to lighten the gentiles"
and so on, world without end, Amen (why the modern translation of the doxology leaves on "et in saecula saeculorum" I've never quite understood…)
In a fun sense, it was incredible at our last Evensong in St George's Chapel, Windsor to be shown to my music stand, realizing that I was staining directly over the graves of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII and Charles I!! Singing an anthem by Gabriel Jackson with words by King Henry VI whose remains rested only a few feet away from where we sang…..
In a more profound way, our music was offered on behalf of those not only present at the sung daily services, but most especially for those suffering in Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Israel as well as the continuous violence and bloodshed on our own country. Did our music matter? Is this really just about wearing silly robes and going through an ancient pageantry that is merely quaint and Anglophilic?
I came to believe firmly that it DID matter. The fact that we were there, singing and imploring God for peace, justice and care, we became a living sacrifice as we offers our selves and bodies. Hopefully, our song could be used as a vessel to help turn people's minds and hearts to other things, that we could all be reminded of the great light of the Incarnation that our God is the God of the poor, the lowly, the downtrodden and the oppressed, and that we are loved…..
After Sunday Eucharist, I watched Mother Erika go around and blessing various members of our choir and felt eternally grateful for the beautiful, talented and slightly wacky (and ALWAYS lively) group of individuals, now linked together in ways I couldn't have anticipated. We were grounded and linked not only by our music, buy by Love Itself.
Listen to a recording from the choir's days in Wells here.
Update: Final Days
by Tom Sheehan
As we have just arrived in Windsor on our last full day in England, I am left thinking about our trip here in terms of what we have all accomplished here, and our reasons for coming. Obviously, the choir has made a lot of wonderful music, and we have all enjoyed seeing the country, which I think were two of the major reasons that we were all thinking about going.
However, something else has happened, and that is that we as a choir have bonded on a level that we have not before. Obviously, the choir has always spent a lot of time together, because of our weekly rehearsals and our demanding schedule of performances, but going on this trip has caused us to spend the kind of time together that leads to getting to know each other beyond just “as colleagues.” The choir has become friends in a way that we have not been before, and this is actually noticeable in our music-making.
The daily schedule of worship has solidified the group in other ways, though; not just as musicians. We have been singing the office of Evensong every day this week (except for Thursday, when we took one day off). The fact that we are not only singing together, but through our song praying the ancient evening rites of the Church, is also a tangible difference. Also, the fact that we did this in a building where some form of these same prayers has been offered for over 800 years was not lost on us, and the words we sang took on an entirely new meaning to the group.
I would not be at all surprised if the effects of this tour are felt in Philadelphia through this next year, considering the incredible improvement in music making that I have seen this week from the choir. I am humbled and grateful that I have been able to be a part of the growth of this institution’s choir, and look forward to coming back and hearing what they can accomplish beyond this, too, in the future!