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.


  1. Mimi, I must agree, every time I walk inside St. Thomas it takes my breath away.

    I've never been able to make on of the concerts (all though I've had a standing order to go for about a year), its so wonderful that you were able to go to so many places off of the regular path. Your description of the concert as so vivid that it made me actively miss it!

  2. i LOVE the architecture of St Thomas....It was the first Episcopal Church i had ever set foot in. i still half think Peter and Paul are going to step out of the wall, they look so lifelike!

    I was also fortunate enough to sing in a choir that was participating in an Interfaith service there one year ... a lovely experience.

  3. The Lamb

    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee
    Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
    By the stream & o'er the mead;
    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing wooly bright;
    Gave thee such a tender voice,
    Making all the vales rejoice!
    Little Lamb who made thee
    Dost thou know who made thee

    Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
    Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
    He is called by thy name,
    For he calls himself a Lamb:
    He is meek & he is mild,
    He became a little child:
    I a child & thou a lamb,
    We are called by his name.
    Little Lamb God bless thee.
    Little Lamb God bless thee.

  4. Allie, this was a wonderful, unexpected treat - serendipity, for I was actually looking for the American Girl store to buy something for my granddaughter.

    Rev Boy, lucky you for getting to sing there.

    Thanks, for the words to "The Lamb", Susan. I thought about putting them in the post.

  5. all of you should stop praising her for this.

    She had a chance to go to a Morrissey concert with me and David and she turned it down for this fluffy stuff!

  6. Dennis is lying, folks. He never invited me.

  7. Such an ugly word!

    No, I never said "Mimi would you like a ticket to see Morrissey?"

    But she did have a chance to see Morrissey - the Ticketmaster website seems to be still up and running!

  8. I'll say this for Dennis. He treated me to lunch at the Met, and he came to find me when I got lost among the nudes after I went to the ladies room. And David paid for the taxi.

    I'll retract the lying bit, and change it to misleading. That's not such an ugly word.

  9. There were nudes in the ladies room?

    My God, someone at the Met needs to watch that restroom.

  10. Grandmere this is great! When I was very troubled many years ago, taking care of my mom,who was quite ill also, I would go to Tuesday noon Healing Mass at St. Thomas.

    It was such a healing balm for my soul. I did this for about a year and it was so wonderful.

    Then our office moved so it was not so easy to get there.

    I thought of you today. I went to Ground Zero for the first time since Dec 2001. You might think that living nearby and working very close that I would have done this, but no.

    After I walked by I went to Trinity Church further down Wall Street.

    No way I can enter an Episcopalian church now and not think of my beautiful Grandmere and friend!

  11. There are many settings of The Lamb but the one you heard is my favorite. Very difficult for the average church choir.

  12. Did you find the American Girl Store?
    It's pretty hard to miss (although not has hard as St. Thomas would be)

    That store makes me sad, when Mattel bought out the Pleasant Company they took the focus off of history and focused it much more on the dolls (I actually credit the American Girl books with much of my interest in women's history).

    ...although I'll admit I still have the first five dolls in my bedroom closet at my parents house (all the books too)... though I got two of them yard sales and one was a gift.

  13. Fran, I can see how the mass and healing service at St. Thomas was helpful. Listening to the choir in that setting was spiritually soothing to me.

    I like Trinity, but I love tiny St. Paul's right next to Ground Zero - the miracle church which was not damaged on 9/11, and where the workers rested and refreshed themselves.

    Piskie, to hear that version of "The Lamb" sung superbly by a group in which more its half its membership was young boys, was a particular privilege.

    Allie, I found the American Girl store. It's true you can't miss it. When I asked the concierge at the hotel where it was, he didn't have to look it up. I suppose that a lot of people ask.

    Can you believe that the store has a hair stylist who styles the dolls' hair? The history emphasis has certainly declined. I bought my granddaughter a two-piece top, which I will give to her today. I hope she likes it.

  14. I haven't been to any of the big or little piskie churches in NYC yet. I'll have to try to rectify that in the future.

  15. I actually did know about the hair stylist... when I was little you could buy curlers for the dolls, but it as a bit different...

    I'm sure she'll like it.

  16. Allie, my granddaughter does not like the top. I'll be mailing it back. That's it. Gift certificate next time. This is not the first time this happens.

  17. Wow, I can't imagine ever telling my grandmother that I didn't like something she gave me!

    (The guilt trip I would get itself wouldn't be worth it)

    But wow, that takes chutzpah. At least you can mail it back.

  18. Allie, I have asked her to tell me the truth, because, if she doesn't like something, it will hang in her closet without ever being worn. As you know, American Girl products are not cheap, and I am a thrifty soul, and I want things to be used.

  19. OK, I just want to get this because it could be an important contribution to my happiness... There are naked ladies in the ladies room at the Met? Because if they put in a sauna with that it would give me a whole new appreciation of art.
    Only half kidding

  20. Rowan, there are no nude ladies in the rest room at the Met, and there is no sauna either. Sorry. That's Dennis' foolishness.

    However, there are are nude statues of ladies at the Met - in case you didn't know.


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