In July, 27 choristers from Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, travelled to the UK for their first ever international tour. Supported by partners, friends, husbands and wives, and our “groupies”, a travelling party of well over 40 people immersed themselves in the daily life of Southwark and Norwich Cathedrals.
The tour was the result of over 18 months of intense planning, ensuring repertoire was in check, psalms and hymns were prepared, accommodation and transport investigated and arranged, and most importantly, music learnt! We are thankful to the Cathedral and Newcastle community also, who helped us reach a fundraising total in excess of $40,000 in a little over 8 months!
This was the first tour for most of our choristers of this nature, and a fantastic opportunity to establish ourselves in the tradition from which our church has grown. To be singing the same psalms and canticles that have been sung in these places for hundreds of years reminded us of the links that the church, and music, present. It allowed us to realise the link our prayers and worship offered in Newcastle, Australia, has with the worldwide catholic church.
In addition to singing Evensong (and the Sunday Eucharist) at Southwark and Norwich, the choir was fortunate to make two “day trips”. The first saw us perform in Beaulieu Abbey. In a stunningly beautiful secluded rural setting, the former Abbey, Beaulieu, (on the estate of Lord Montagu next door to his famous Motor Museum) is the place from where the first Bishop of Newcastle, William Tyrrell, was appointed. To engage in our history was a very special moment for us, especially being able to sing under the plaque gifted to the Abbey Church from our Diocese in 1997 for the sesquicentenary of our Diocese. The choir also presented a lunchtime concert at Trinity College, Cambridge, which seemed oddly fitting, as their choir was in Australia at the time! Although somewhat exhausting for all of us, the challenge of presenting music at the highest possible standard every day for concert and worship was its own reward.
Certainly a highlight for the choir was the opportunity to work with a number of professional musicians. The choir was directed by Katherine Dienes-Williams (Director of Music at Guildford Cathedral) on one occasion, and by Andrew Reid (Director of the RSCM UK) on another. It was a fantastic opportunity for the choir to be directed by these amazing musicians and to learn from their immense knowledge and talent. We were certainly grateful for their enthusiasm and generosity in working with us, and will not forget that any time soon.
Repertoire from the tour was a selection of what one might expect on a tour such as this: Howells, Stanford, Noble and Dyson among the Evensong canticles, with anthems from Mendelssohn, Byrd, Fauré, Elgar and Brahms. Particularly important for us was the showcasing of Australian repertoire, so we were very glad to include David Drury’s Ave Verum and Evensong Canticles, a setting of the Mag and Nunc by Fr Glen Hughes, arrangements of indigenous melodies, and anthems by former Newcastle Cathedral Organists/Choir Masters Keith Noake and Philip Matthias.
I am grateful for the support and encouragement received from many quarters for the choir’s tour, and would like to say thank you to all those who assisted in one way or another in helping the choir successfully complete their first international tour. If you use social media, you can always follow the choir’s adventures on Facebook: www.facebook.com/newcastlecathedralchoirs or follow our blog: https://newcastlecathedralchoir.wordpress.com