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Thread: Going to church in English cathedrals

  1. #11
    fff Fortississimo davidecasteel's Avatar
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    I call myself a "Liturgical Methodist" and I like a service rich with liturgy and with a short (10-15 min) sermon. Unfortunately, such a service is not what I get at my local UMC. There are Episcopal and Anglican churches fairly nearby, but I've been at my church for 36 years and would hate to leave all my friends. I've also invested both time and money in the church.

    You have just experienced the type of worship that I crave.

    David

  2. #12
    mf Mezzo-Forte Leisesturm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidecasteel View Post
    I call myself a "Liturgical Methodist" and I like a service rich with liturgy and with a short (10-15 min) sermon. Unfortunately, such a service is not what I get at my local UMC. There are Episcopal and Anglican churches fairly nearby, but I've been at my church for 36 years and would hate to leave all my friends. I've also invested both time and money in the church.

    You have just experienced the type of worship that I crave.
    Me too. Evensongs are how I cope. I was Christened and raised in a United Methodist Church by Anglican parents who were new to the country and opted to go to the church around the corner rather than try to find one of the Denomination they were raised in. When I discovered on my own as a 20 something Anglican/Episcopal style worship, I was already the Organist and Music Director of my home church. You had better believe I gave my mother seven different kinds of h-e-double hockey sticks for not trying harder to find an Anglican parish near home! I would grab a quick lunch after playing for my church in Brooklyn and ride the train into mid-town and catch the Evensong at St. Thomas 5th Avenue almost every Sunday. They livestream them now David... the 10:00am Eucharists too, just saying...

  3. #13
    p Piano steverose's Avatar
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    Amen John! You have experienced something unique that should be far more commonplace. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school and I was up there on the altar assisting in most aspects of the church service. Sadly my kids are ushered out of the Presbyterian service before the Gospel reading. Today I was proud to have my eldest on the altar with me turning pages and pulling stops and hitting the all too inconvenient zimblestern switch for the last verse. She was even placed in charge of the Bishop's water glass! Made for a good father's day.

    I hope to someday make it to England myself. It is one of my dreams. Thanks for the wonderful descriptive.
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  4. #14
    fff Fortississimo Menschenstimme's Avatar
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    Hi John - what a wonderful experience to attend high church in an English cathedral !

    I am an RC and thus am very curious regarding the ratio of English to Latin in a high-church English cathedral solemn liturgy ?

    Thank you !

  5. #15
    ppp Pianississmo O'Carolan's Avatar
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    Hi, gosh I didn't see this. Glad you love the country.

    Person above: I'm not sure about the Catholic cathedrals, but Anglican cathedrals hold their services entirely in English. If you're in Wales it will be a bilingual service with some parts spoken in Welsh.

    St Paul's Cathedral is murder is all I can say - it has a massive echo that lasts for over 13 seconds. I believe you would have had a much better experience at Westminster Abbey where my friend was Organ Scholar. Also hope you visited Liverpool Cathedral, OP - has currently the largest organ in the UK, competing with St Paul's. The remote console is on display during visiting hours. The reed quality is a little disappointing though; to achieve the typical French sound you need to draw on the 20 rank Grand Chorus which quite frankly... is a bit much. Liverpool's echo also just comes shy of St Paul's.

  6. #16
    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    Menschenstimme, the post above answers your question, I think. At least at St. Paul's and at York Minster the liturgy is all in English, though the choral parts of Evensong were partly in Latin (the program had the Latin words and the English equivalents printed side by side). Some of the churches that I have toured but haven't attended for services, say that they are "Anglo-Catholic" and they call their services the "Mass." I saw one today with the high altar firmly against the wall, so I assume the priest must stand with his back to the people at times. Not sure just how Catholic-like the services actually are in these type Anglican churches. But the services are surely conducted in English, per the Book of Common Prayer.
    John
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  7. #17
    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    We attended Sung Eucharist at Westminster Abbey this morning. It was sort of a mixed bag...

    (1) It was an unusual service, as there were a number of children being confirmed, one baptism, one adult being received into the Anglican communion, so there may have been a larger crowd than normal. And the service was held in the quire end rather than the nave, so folks were seated mostly in the transepts with a rather poor view of the sanctuary/altar area where the goings on were conducted. The seating arrangement detracted from the experience somewhat, as did the necessity of "herding" all of us into the space instead of allowing one to choose a seat at will.

    (2) On the positive side, it was a very moving service, presided over by the "Honorary Assistant Bishop, Diocese of London," Rt Rev Michael Marshall. An older gentleman, very kindly, it seemed, who seemed to genuinely love receiving these children and new members, and who did an admirable job of making it personal for each one of them. I found myself moved to tears as he spoke tenderly and affirmingly to each one brought before him. His sermon was also excellent, if a tad longer than the typical Anglican sermon. He did well drawing together the Epistle and Gospel texts for the day.

    (3) Also positive -- the HYMNS. There were three, and two of them were totally familiar to me, so familiar that I was able to sing with gusto. The Gathering Hymn used the tune Breslau, the least familiar of the three to me, though it was a very traditionally styled tune that I was able to follow to some degree. The Communion Hymn was "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus" (tune Hyfrydol), one of my very favorite hymns and tunes, and I enjoyed it immensely. The Closing Hymn was "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" (tune Kingsfold) which I also knew well and could sing with enthusiasm.

    (4) The choir was superb. The choirs we heard at St. Paul and at York were certainly excellent too, but Westminster's boys and men surely cannot be topped by anyone anywhere. Flawless, pitch perfect, crisp and pure enunciation without any quirks or oddities to distract. I only wish we'd been in the nave where the sound might have carried better. They were seated in the quire stalls, and sitting in the transepts there were some barriers that kept us from enjoying the full glory of the singing.

    (5) Organ and acoustics -- More of a mixed bag. No doubt the organ is a fine one. The organist played about 10 minutes prior to the service, and I enjoyed the lovely flutes, the cornets, the quieter pedal stops. When the service began and the organ opened up for the processional and Gathering Hymn, it didn't really penetrate to the transept area where we were seated. Not that we couldn't hear it, we could. And it's not that there was anything weak about the tone, it just didn't fully reach to that part of the church with all its glory.

    The organ did a good job of leading the hymns, somewhere between the mushy/gooey effect of St. Paul's and the nicely crisp articulation of York Minster. It would surely have been more effective had we been in the nave or at least in the quire. Also, the congregation this morning did not seem very inclined to sing, in contrast to the situation at the previous two churches we attended.

    As the organ played the recessional and postlude (Fantasia and Fugue in G by Hubert Parry), we stayed in our seats until well into the piece, then followed the adjourning crowd through the quire, under the screen, and out into the nave. It was VERY obvious that the organ speaks with much more authority into the nave, and once we went through the screen, it seemed to at least double in volume and power. The pedals immediately became much richer and deeper, and the upperwork began to sparkle.

    The overall sound of the organ is certainly excellent. Smooth and lilting flutes, sparking upperwork, rich pedals, full choruses, lovely strings, enchanting solo voices, powerful reeds. It's all there, and possibly even more beautiful than the Willis at St. Paul's. I'm sure the tone colors are as good as anything I've ever heard. I only wish I'd been seated in a better spot!

    The acoustics were hard to judge from our poor vantage point, but I'd guess it's not nearly as reverberant as St. Paul's, and thus a better organ room. There is plenty of sustain, and it's hard to judge when the room is full of people, but I noted when the final chord was released on the Postlude (we were out in the nave by then), it seemed to die below audibility within 2 or 3 seconds. No doubt one could technically hear a far longer sustain at a very low level if the room were otherwise silent, but for practical purposes the sustain is not really that long.

    Too bad they don't allow photography in there. It is indeed a beautiful place, especially when the glass is fully lit, as it was this morning by the bright sunshine outdoors. Not as highly decorated as St. Paul's (at least not like the part of St. Paul's that Victoria is said to have wanted some color added to), but the Gothic pillars, arches, aisles, windows, and other delightful appointments are very pleasing to the eye.

    Bottom line of all my English Cathedral experiences -- grand as they are, if I lived here I'd surely find a smaller church to attend on a regular basis. It just doesn't seem quite right that you are going to church in what amounts to a museum of sorts, a place so famous and exalted in the public mind that you have to be herded in and out like cattle. I do understand all the concern, and the searching of bags and the strict rules about this and that, but it does detract from the spirituality of the service, at least until you get over it.

    I would seek out a church where the liturgy is done well, where the organ and organist are top tier, if not necessarily nationally known. Where there is a vicar or priest who loves people, shepherds the flock, preaches with sincerity, who has a deep concern for all of God's children in all their diversity, and all God's creatures and creation as a whole. Such a church may not exist on every corner, but I'd sure have a great time looking for one.

    But I will be happy to get back to my little church where you can sit anywhere you like, you don't have to be searched on the way in, you can linger after the service if you wish, and nobody is walking around telling people to put away their phones (I actually observed this today). Where the organ is pleasant if not astounding, the organist unassuming and competent if not exciting, where I know the hymns, where I know the pastor and admire him personally as well as professionally. Where the sustain time is less than 1 second, but sufficient to make the organ bloom and the choir resound.

    They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and I do understand that quite well now ...
    John
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  8. #18
    ff Fortissimo Havoc's Avatar
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    John, although I don't really follow your spiritual journey I do appreciate your story of the journey and your thoughts on the organs and spaces they reside in. But while the use of quire doesn't seem wrong (I had to look it up) it would be easier to follow if you used choir. The people are named after the place they do perform.

    Funny they don't allow photography anymore. When I was there (20 years ago) you could if you bought a permit. Was 1 at the time. Not during service of course.

  9. #19
    mf Mezzo-Forte Roger Memphis's Avatar
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    Thanks for the interesting commentary, John. Much of it indicative of our changing times.
    The last time I was at Westminster, was in 1996 and on a weekday. At that time they allowed photography at no charge if without flash. Same story at Buckingham Palace, which was open for paid tours to raise money to repair huge fire damage at Windsor Castle. We found the services at the small churches in the Cotswolds much more like home, even though our home church is large. England was my late wife's favorite place to visit. Have a safe and enjoyable journey!
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  10. #20
    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    When we were in the UK three years ago, we attended a Sunday service at Gloucester Cathedral and I think that may have been the most enjoyable English service I've ever experienced. Partly because Gloucester is a smallish town and the cathedral, while still "big" was much less of a monument or museum than these big city cathedrals. And the people seemed very common and friendly.

    I did feel blessed by all the services we attended this time around. The first Sunday at St. Paul's bowled me over spiritually and emotionally, and I pretty much cried through the whole thing. The other services we went to -- an Evensong and Sunday Eucharist at York, and the Eucharist at Westminster -- had their moments too, so none were wasted entirely.

    But then I'm just an emotional guy, and I often get broken up back at my own church when the scripture is being read, or when the choir sings something that strikes a chord with me, or when the sermon goes right to the heart of something that means a lot to me. I'll probably be a mess next Sunday because I have scheduled the choir to sing a beautiful anthem that we learned for our Lenten musical, and also it's intinction Sunday and I get to receive communion directly from the elders.

    What a life!
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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