January 10: Ely, Charles

Happy birthday, Isaac!

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Charles Porter, Senior bass

The morning began with a full English breakfast; something unsurprisingly better than the continental breakfasts around the US. I was the first one to breakfast, as has become my tradition on this trip, and I informed the room list attendant that today we’d be leaving an hour earlier than the previous day. He, in turn, immediately told the staff to start making all the items we ate most the morning prior. As somebody who works in the food service industry, the slight panic in his eyes hit a little too close to home, and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of panic in empathy. Neverless, we all ate our fill and piled onto the coach, which started up at 8:00am with the familiar, mildly uncomfortable flutter of lights that accompanies the turnover of the engine. With that, we were off for Ely.
As soon as we were out of the city we were engulfed in a thick fog. Unfortunately, so were all the other vehicles driving that morning. Our bus driver, Paul, decided a route through the countryside would be more beneficial than the stagnant highway, since there were lengthy delays on England’s equivalent of a freeway/interstate. I found it worthwhile, though, as the drive provided a beautiful views of the English landscape.
The fog also made the cathedral difficult to see from a distance as we arrived three hours later, so, as we pulled up, the monumental structure suddenly became clear. As we walked in, my immediate infatuation was affirmed. Paintings sprawled the towering ceiling and Norman arches. The shifts in architectural styles throughout the cathedral was apparent well before the tour guide explained them to us. The structure, which was originally built by command of William the Conqueror in the 11th century, suffered massive structural damage when the original tour collapsed  on February 13th, 1322 (which, according to dayoftheweek.org, was in fact a Friday). The architecture of the new tower is considered Gothic due to several features including the insanely tall columns and the pointed top on the tower.
The tower, which is shaped like an octagon, was made of wood instead of stone, but was painted to look like stone. After the concert, a group of students climbed up and were able to observe this, as well as the cathedral floor from all the way up top. I saw it on a Snapchat story, and it was terrifying and wonderful even through the phone.
The cathedral had several beautiful features, but my favorite was the Lady Chapel, where we performed.  The space was set off from the rest of the cathedral by a small walkway, but it was enough to prevent any ambient sound from finding its way in. As a result, the space was incredibly silent, something I found almost uncomfortable as a person constantly surrounded by sound (generally my own voice).
The windows in the chapel were all clear (the stained glass was all smashed during the Reformation) so the room was much brighter that any other part of the cathedral, a juxtaposition that lent itself to further separating the space from the rest of the building. Lastly, the walls were covered in intricate carvings of Mary’s life (mother Mary being the lady of the Lady Chapel.  In the Middle Ages every cathedral had a Lady Chapel.  Ely’s just happens to be of tremendous size and acoustical perfection.). All these factors created an atmosphere I’ve truly never experienced before, and as my half of the choir sang informally for our tour guide, feelings of awe and reverence swept over me. It was one of the few times in my life that I believe I’ve truly found peace.
Following our tour of the cathedral, we had a brief rehearsal, changed quickly to formalwear, and positioned ourselves for the concert.  The room was a pleasure to sing in, and it was obvious everybody felt that way. The sound hung in the air for several seconds, which was incredibly impactful. The choir was immediately engaged in the performance, and the audience engaged right back. Several jaws dropped throughout the concert, and several teary faces joined them. The most satisfying thing for me was how Dr. ABC took more time than usual during rests after chords to let them bounce around in the hall, allowing us all to bath in our own, beautiful sound.
 After the concert, the people were delighted, and the man I talked to described it as “brilliant.” Funny enough, every audience member I’ve talked to along our journey has described us in the same way. It feels incredible to be a member of a brilliant choir.
After the concert, some students went on the tour to the octagonal tower, and I went with the rest to grab food. My food squad stopped by the pub right outside the cathedral for a “Pie and a Pint,” the convenient Wednesday special of the place. We were told before arriving in England that pub food has drastically increased in quality lately, and that fact is extremely obvious. Also, though it may be me being silly, the Guinness here definitely tastes better. Lunch was followed by a bus drive to Cambridge where we are currently staying, and where I’m currently typing this.
Before dinner we had some free time to explore. Instead, I utilized the hotel gym for some much appreciated alone time. We all love each other, but none of us want to be around one another constantly, otherwise we tend to get a little grumpy! Dinner was served in the Marco Pierre White restaurant attached to the hotel. The food was astounding, as it has been all tour.
Now we’re off to do what we’d like, except for me of course… I had some tour homework to finish since I’m the blogger of the day.  Tomorrow we tour Cambridge and have some free time, but I’m sure you’ll read about it then.