January 15: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Alyssa

Monday, January 15, 2019
By Alyssa LaTragna, senior alto
I woke up this morning saying the same thing that has been repeated to us this entire tour by our audience members: today is the day! I gathered my things, and headed down to the massive spread we’ve been having each day in London for breakfast. We all met in the lobby to shuffle to the coach that would take us to our most impressive venue yet: St. Paul’s Cathedral. 
 
We walked up to the main floor, and I saw many a jaw drop. The cathedral is massive in size and in neo-classic decor. An earlier version of St. Paul’s was destroyed in the Great London Fire (1666) and a new church was designed by Christopher Wren.
 
The ceiling in the nave was relatively simple compared to that above the choir, and around the dome. The ceilings in that area glistened in the sun light, because the design called for small cuts in the stone that catch the light in such a magnificent, breathtaking manner. The detail that was put into the cathedral was reflected by the 35 year construction time, ending in 1710. 
 
The part that surprised me the most about this cathedral was the American chapel that is behind the altar.  The chapel is dedicated to the Americans who fought in WWII to assist England.  I never realized how big an impact the US had on other Allied nations during the Second World War.  It was so meaningful to see that our efforts helped others in that conflict and that our country is still, in some way, considered a positive in the lives of others.
 
After our tour, we had some free time to grab lunch, shop around, and prepare for our rehearsal. We hadn’t sung the music for the Evensong service in 10 days since it isn’t a part of our concert repertoire, so I was extremely proud of how focused we were during the entire rehearsal. We ended up finishing our rehearsal early and had a few minutes to gather our thoughts and get ready to sing in one of the most famous cathedrals in England. 
 
We entered the choir area of the cathedral, and I could already tell that this experience was going to be transcendent. We met the organ scholar, Nicholas, who had just graduated from Oxford, and then began to establish our sound in this vast space by singing The Three Kings by Healy Willan, which would serve as the anthem for the service.
 
As soon as we started, our eyes widened and our smiles enlarged. Our voices filled the cathedral, which surprised me because of how enormous this space is.  We finished our first run of the piece to stare at each other in awe. I could tell that everyone was astonished at how stunning the space was, but also how stunning we sounded in the space. 
 
We finished our rehearsal with the cantor, and practiced the processional and recessional logistics.  We lined up and stayed silent as we waited for the Dean and members of the Chapter to join us in the Dean’s aisle in preparation for the start of Evensong.
 
I want to preface that I am not an extremely religious person, but no one needs to have any relationship with the divine to feel the impact of this service. 
 
The cantor had a haunting voice that pierced through the cathedral via microphone, and she really set the scene for me as the service began. 
 
The atmosphere was nothing like I’d experienced before this service. We were split into two groups, facing each other—which made this even more special. I got to see the faces of some of my best friends while singing in a majestic space. 
 
After we finished singing, I couldn’t stop grinning, as our sound rang throughout the cathedral. I kept thinking about how our sound has rung in so many important places in England, but our time has led up to today, singing Evensong at St. Paul.  You know it’s a big deal when locals’ eyes widen when you tell them where your next concert is! 
 
We ended the evening by going to Maggie Jones This restaurant had some specific English dishes that included fish pie, meat tart, and grilled calf liver. It was a great variety, and I guarantee that each person left feeling full and happy. 
 
This day has been a whirlwind of experiences, and I’m so honored to be a member of this choir. It takes a village, but it also takes the forward thinking of a great leader. The 2017-18 Chamber Choir is so incredibly lucky to have Dr. ABC leading us to success as we finish out this incredible tour. With only one day left, I can’t begin to wrap my head around coming home, let alone begin student teaching on Monday! Nevertheless, we will finish out strong and make our university and people of our country proud.