Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Winchester Cathedrel Choir At St. Thomas

High Altar, reredos, and stained glass at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York.

On the Monday morning in New York, I visited the Guggenheim Museum. On my way back to the hotel, I rode the bus and got off near St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue. I had passed the church many times before riding in taxis, but I had never gone in. Since I was on foot, I decided to stop in.

Am I glad I did! The high altar and reredos are a magnificent sight. The stained glass and even the floors are lovely. The website, linked above, offers a virtual tour of the church in which are many beautiful sights. Look at the gorgeous sight of one of the organs and the rose window above the entryway. I'm determined to go back to St. Thomas, because from the virtual tour, I see that I missed several of their treasures.

While I was there, I came upon a notice about a concert the next evening - the only free evening I had left - by the boys' and men's choir of Winchester Cathedral. I bought a ticket as soon as I could find the office.

The choir performance was excellent. I watched the stillness of the young boys as they sang in their lovely voices and followed attentively the promptings of the choir director, and I tried to picture my grandsons in the mix. It didn't happen. My rambunctious crew of five would not fit into the picture. One grandson, who attends Jesuit High School in New Orleans and is learning a bit of military-type discipline, along with politeness, is moving in the right direction.

Among the selections that I most enjoyed were, "Komm, Jesu, Komm", BWV 229 by J. S. Bach, which was splendidly performed, just before the intermission. Following the intermission I enjoyed especially, "The Lamb" by John Taverner, words by William Blake, "Laudi alla Vergine Maria" by James MacMillan, "Salve Regina", by Poulenc, and, the finale, "God Is Gone Up" by Gerald Finzi, which includes nearly the whole second half of the program. The choir made a joyful noise unto the Lord.

From the translation to the words of "Komm, Jesu, Komm" by Paul Thymich:

Come, Jesus, come,
My flesh is weary,
My strength doth fade e're more and more,
For now I yearn
To reach thy stillness;
This bitter path doth me oppress!
Come myself to thee I'll offer;
Thou are the proper way, the true way and the true life.


An old newspaper, The Evening Telegram from Aug. 8, 1905, is on display in the narthex. The article tells the story of the fire which destroyed the third St. Thomas Church, with the headline, "St. Thomas, Centre Of The Social World In Ashes".

Altogether, it was a lovely evening, listening to the beautiful music in an equally beautiful setting.

The reredos are a sight to behold, containing over 80 carved figures and measuring 43 ft. wide and 80 ft. high.