First task for the organ scholars: pick your organ. They have five.
But that’s for tomorrow. Now, after more than twenty-four hours and five meals in no particular order: good night California!
Thursday 5th April - Tricia Drummond
Following our first evening in San Francisco, many of us spent the morning recovering from our jet lag and making the most of the unlimited pancakes at the hostels breakfast buffet!
We took the bus to Stanford and rehearsed in the Memorial Church for the evening’s concert. The Stanford Chamber Chorale organised a delicious Mexican meal for the evening, which gave us a chance to get to know their choir.
It was amazing to be able to perform to and meet some of the generous supporters of the choir.
Friday 6th April - Tricia Drummond
Today we had a completely free morning, which gave us the chance to see a bit more of the city!
A group of us went to have a look at the shops in Union Square, and then went to the Museum of Modern Art. There was such a variety of amazing works, and it also provided a welcome relief from the rain!
After a day exploring the unique San Francisco-ness of SF, by Sunday I was ready for some familiar Anglican choral liturgy. Our hosts for the day were the chapter and congregation of Grace Cathedral. Like much of San Francisco, it was built following the 1906 earthquake – and, also like much of San Francisco, it was at the top of a very steep hill. I spent the near-vertical ascent trying to gauge whether Grace would beat my own ecclesiastical alma mater of Lincoln Cathedral in the niche ‘Steepest Hill to the Cathedral’ category
The choir sang the eucharistic setting written by Philip Stopford for Keble College when he was a student there in 1997, a suitably dramatic and atmospheric piece for the setting and occasion. There were also some great Easter hymns (yes, Easter Sunday was only a week ago!) and there seemed to be a strong tradition of congregational singing. We’ve never yet sung this piece in Chapel, although contemporary sacred music has been one a specialism recently with the disc A New Heaven. The choir appreciates the opportunity to sing Eucharistic music in its proper setting (which happens only once or twice a term in Chapel) and it was a privilege to be part of this special occasion for the baptismal candidates and their families. Many of the congregation stopped afterwards to compliment the choir – hopefully we have introduced a new audience to the choral music being produced by British composers today!
There was just time for lunch in the sun in the park by the cathedral before a very early Evensong, and this time it was Rory’s turn on the organ. This service featured classics of the English choral tradition: Howells Col Reg and Elgar’s anthem The Spirit of the Lord. The quire area was full, and definitely the best place to sit to appreciate the acoustic. We’re all sorry to leave San Francisco which has been so welcoming.
The group was elated to find that all of our rooms were ensuite, and fans and air conditioning (essential in the 36 degree heat!) were present. We had an hour to spare before heading to Getty House for our next spot of singing and so we went to explore. I went to a good pizza place on the other side of the block while others opted to explore the walk of fame on Hollywood Boulevard or popped to the supermarket to discover how many brands they recognised.
We then travelled in Ubers to Getty House, the residence of the Mayor of Los Angeles who just happens to be an alumnus of The Queen’s College! We were there to provide entertainment for an evening event organised for alumni of The Queen’s College and Wadham College living in California and the surrounding states. We were also able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and were treated to a lovely range of sandwiches, drinks and canapés by the Mayor and his team. This event was one of the times that we sang secular music and our programme was, we hope, well received. It included the Irish traditional (although perhaps originally from the USA!) song ‘Molly Malone’, ‘Moon River’ from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and ’Somewhere over the rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz!