Choir Performs Sickeningly Well
“I’M GOING TO BE VERY SICK” came the young, surprisingly enthusiastic voice from the front of the plane. It was 8.15am as we attempted to land in Wellington for the New Zealand Cathedral Choirs Festival. Choristers from the cathedrals in Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Auckland were travelling to Wellington for the occasion. This was that weekend last month when a series of storms travelled up the country creating havoc for everyone’s travel plans. Here we were, bouncing into Wellington in the most fearful of storms, everyone on board white-knuckled and very silent. At last, as we taxied to the terminal young Benedict Sullivan triumphantly held high his paper bag for all to see - indeed he had! Ours was the only flight that landed that morning. Our fellow choristers from Dunedin, Nelson, New Plymouth and Auckland circled Wellington then were sent off home or to other airports to await calmer skies and to try again later. From this rather inauspicious and shaky beginning, the weekend developed into a glorious songfest. By mid afternoon when the diverted choristers had straggled in, we numbered over 150 singers. Michael Stewart, Wellington’s DoM, who had in his youth been our Christchurch organ scholar, had organised the event splendidly. We rehearsed morning and afternoon and presented a fine concert in the early evening. In that very generous acoustic (just like we will have in the cardboard cathedral?) the appropriately big and grandiose festival anthems sounded magnificent. The Eucharist next morning was very impressive, the great Messe Solennelle by Vierne with its towering organ part was appropriately awe-inspiring. Bruckner’s unaccompanied ‘Ave Maria’ filled the great space with reverberating echoes. The concluding festal evensong was thrilling. The, by now, very tired voices, rose to the occasion. I conducted the canticles – the St Paul’s setting by Howells – and was delighted at the sensitivity and musicianship of the singers. Throughout the festival our choristers were seated right in front of the conductor’s podium. They were noticed and commented upon … fortunately for all the right reasons! For many of our boys it was the first time they had had the experience of singing in a cathedral - a salutary thought. We journeyed home uneventfully that evening, with happy memories of an inspiring weekend of music-making. A special thank you to Lady Isaac for helping us get there. The Choir also sang at the function at the Antarctic Centre to thank all those who have helped get the Transitional Cathedral off the ground.