Edinburgh, November 2009

Although the photo, taken by gordonrasmith, is from our summer residential weekend back in August, our most recent service took place last Saturday, 28th November, at 4pm in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, when we sang Choral Evensong.

The music list was:

Introit: Hear my Prayer – Henry Purcell
Responses: John Sanders
Psalms: 137 & 138
Canticles: Hugh Blair in b minor
Anthem: Hail Gladdening Light – Charles Wood
Hymn:  Ye Holy Angels Bright (NEH 475), Tune: Darwall’s 148th (James Darwall), Descant by Frikki Walker.

RSCM Scottish Voices is a choir made up of choristers from a variety of church choirs around Scotland, and we only meet on the day of a service, with no rehearsals in between apart from a residential rehearsal weekend once a year in the summer.  So that means we need to work pretty hard on the day of a service to not only polish or indeed sometimes learn the music, but also to get used again to singing with each other.  That might sound odd to non-choristers but anyone who’s ever joined an ad-hoc choir will understand it.

So at 10am on a freezing cold Saturday morning we all met outside the rather beautifully decorated Song School, with its murals by Phoebe Traquair, before the choir administrator found the vergers’ office and got us access to the building.

A couple of hours of rehearsal, including in the Cathedral itself, and we broke for lunch for an hour or so, and then reassembled for more rehearsal.  I believe various lunch options were tried, ranging from home made sandwiches, through Greggs the bakers, to local pubs!

There was a concert later that evening in the Cathedral, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and we had to fit in with the rehearsal times for that so we had limited time in the Cathedral immediately before Evensong, but Frikki Walker, our exceptionally talented Musical Director, managed to top and tail everything that was needed.  Our organist is Richard Walmsley but he was engaged in a rehearsal for the following day’s live BBC Radio 4 broadcast of Sunday Worship from his home church, St Ninian’s Episcopal Cathedral in Perth, so at fairly short notice we were joined and very ably accompanied by Geoff Bolton, a work colleague of Richard’s.

Two of the clergy of the cathedral joined us for Evensong, and made us feel very welcome, as indeed had the verger earlier in the day.  The service went pretty well and the one or two slightly scary moments from the rehearsals seemed to pass uneventfully!

And so the official part of the day was over.

Many of us had travelled by public transport, and so we moved onto the next bit of the day, the all important after service fluid replacement session!

One of our choristers lives in Edinburgh (and sings in the choir of the rather lovely Old St Paul’s Episcopal Church) and she recommended a local hotel, the Edinburgh Thistle Hotel in nearby Manor Place, on the basis that since Scotland had been playing Argentina at Rugby at nearby Murrayfield Stadium then most of the local pubs would be very busy but the hotel might be a bit quieter. 

She was right to recommend it. 

Good beer, a good atmosphere, and the Wales v Australia Rugby game on a big screen, watched by a decent sized and very good natured crowd consisting largely of, I was repeatedly told by more than one of our sopranos and altos, very good looking men!

Inevitably not all choir members will make it to the socialising afterwards, although all are invited, but out of the roughly 30 choristers who had sung Evensong there must have been almost 20 in the bar afterwards, albeit split into three groups because of the available seating.

A few beers, wines, port & brandies, and gin & tonics later, not to mention the baguettes filled with sausage consumed towards the end of the evening, and the last 4 of us of us left the hotel heading for the 9pm train from Haymarket to Glasgow, which we caught with perfect timing, despite some rather unsteady walking!  A portion or two of the best that Burger King had to offer at Glasgow Central Station, where we’d all walked to continue the last legs of our journeys home after arriving at Queen Street from Edinburgh and we went our separate ways.

A long day, but a fine day of music making and. most importantly, friendship.

RSCM Scottish Voices as a choir is in its very early days, and still has much of its musical potential to fulfil, but fulfil it we will with a great deal of determination by its members, and an enormous amount of skill, enthusiasm, fun and professionalism by our Music Director Frikki Walker, assisted by our fine organist Richard Walmsley.  But there’s more to a choir than just music, vitally important as that is, and in the brief year since we were founded, and having met each other less than ten times, we have already bonded together and many good friendships have been forged, and that makes a firm foundation for some excellent music making.

If you are over 18, live in Scotland, have choral experience, and are looking for a choir that meets around half a dozen times a year for a day each time to sing in a variety of churches and cathedrals around Scotland (with the associated socialising of course), then you could do a lot worse than to audition for RSCM Scottish Voices.  Contact the administrator if you want more details or want to arrange an audition. 

Go on, you won’t regret it.

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