Winchester & the Southern Cathedrals Festival

Trip Start Jul 06, 2011
Trip End Aug 04, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, July 15, 2011

This morning as I sat in the cathedral listening to the pre-service music I realized that some of you may not know all of these words that I am bandying about regarding cathedral architecture.  Cathedrals are laid out in the shape of a cross, the foot of the cross being the west entrance.  The nave goes the length of the cathedral from west to the east end.  The transepts are the arms of the cross.  At the crossing of the nave and transepts is the quire, where the choir sits.  The Altar is generally to the east of the quire.  East of that are small chapels dedicated to various important people from Mary, the mother of Jesus to saints to past bishops. When looking at the side walls in the nave you see columns behind which are aisles (if I remember correctly).  Above that level is the triforium which is often a type of balcony, and above that is the cleresory, windows letting in the light.  The ceiling is vaulted for strength, where the ribs of the vaulting cross are carved bosses.  That is probably more than you wanted to know, but there is your architecture lesson for the day!

On to more mundane things, my room at the Wykeham Arms is miniscule as you might be able to tell in the photo.  Never mind, it has an en suite bathroom so I don't have to go down the hall to share with everyone, and windows on two walls for cross ventilation.  And there is a great view.  The building is timber framed with wattle and daub construction, which is the typical Tudor look.  The stairway is steep and harrowing.  Across the lane is the pub and dining room/breakfast room.  The photo is slightly blurry, but you can see the typical breakfast fitting of a teapot, milk jug and toast rack.  Yes, the toast is set in the rack to cool off.

At the end of the lane is the Kingsgate, one of the few remaining gates of the old city wall.  Around the corner from my lodgings is the house where Jane Austen spent her last six weeks and died.  The building, like many historical buildings in this country, has a commemorative plaque.  Winchester College, founded in 1382, is thought to be the oldest continuously running school in England.  On down College Street you run into the Wiers walk which runs between the ruins of Wolvesey Castle and the River Itchen.  Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary, first daughter of King Henry VIII) was married to the king of Spain in Winchester Cathedral, and celebrated the marriage in this castle.

Along the High Street (the British equivalent of Main Street) you find various Tudor buildings dating back 500 years or more and housing, amongst other things, Starbucks!  Every once in a while if you are looking the right direction, you can catch a glimpse of the cathedral amongst the cities buildings.  But, as always, part of any cathedral you go to visit is in scaffolding.  Restoration and cleaning is a never-ending process.  Around the corner from the cathedral is the Pilgrim's Hall, dating 1308, where pilgrims to the shrine of St. Swithun were housed.

The reason for my extended stay in Winchester is the Southern Cathedrals Festival which is four days of services and concerts with the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester.  Yesterday's festivities included a Sung Eucharist (communion service), Choral Evensong (late afternoon service without communion) and an organ recital.  So far today I have been to another Sung Eucharist, and will go to the concert tonight which features the girl choristers and lay clerks instead of the boys.  Tomorrow is Festival Evensong and a concert with the boys and the lay clerks.  Sunday I will have to miss as I head up to London first thing in the morning.  The music has been exquisite.  The organ is stunning, and the boy's voices soar to the heights of the cathedral with angelic purity.  If you have never heard a real boys choir you have really missed something.  Boys, when properly trained, can sing higher than most women of today.  Theirs is a purity of tone, without vibrato so that the pitch is absolutely perfect - no wobbling!  The girls that we will hear tonight do just as well, but there has been such a long tradition of boys only singing at cathedrals that including girls choirs is only starting to happen, and only with the most forward-looking musicians.

For you musicians, amongst other pieces, yesterday we heard Mozart's Missa Brevis in D, Duruflé's Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain and several small Alain pieces.  Today's mass setting was the Messe solennelle by Jean Langlais along with organ music by Vierne.  Tonight's concert includes Elgar, Tallis, Palestrina, Bach, Rutter, Duruflé and Messiaen to name a few.  Tomorrow we will enjoy Walton's Coronation Te Deum, some Bruckner, Gabrieli's In ecclesiis, Pärt and the Rutter Gloria.  All a choral conductor's and organist's dream!

Hopefully I have not repeated myself too much.  It is amazing to be here in such ancient history, beautiful architecture and such glorious music, and I am completely in awe.
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Jane Ann Engel on

I'm so enjoying "traveling" along with you! I love the're lucky to be having such beautiful weather. I'm also enjoying your history and architect lessons!! Love journey.

Diane Gaede on

I love a good architecture lesson in the morning! Winchester looks like a great town - so happy to hear the music is inspiring!

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