By Will Nash 20'
Over Spring Break, the NCS and St. Albans Combined Chorale journeyed across the pond to London to perform in the centuries-old cathedrals for which England is famed. This year’s trip was the first trip overseas since Mr. Straub took over as Director of Choral Music from the late Mr. Hutto, and his first trip at the helm was truly a paragon of organization and efficiency, while it also allowed for plenty of time for independent exploration of the city of London.
After a smooth seven and a half hour flight from D.C. to London, all Chorale members regrouped on Saturday morning at Windsor Castle, the longest-occupied palace in Europe, for the first sight-seeing of the trip. There, singers grabbed a quick brunch and then either paid admission to the castle to see the royal State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel or explored the surrounding town of Windsor independently. After a couple of hours, the Chorale regrouped to head back into London to the hotel where they would rest up for a big day of sightseeing the next day,
On Sunday, all rose bright and early to attend Sunday service at Westminster Abbey. There, the Chorale heard the beautiful singing of the world-renowned Choir of Westminster Abbey and saw the tombs of such renowned English figures as Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens. After church, the Chorale boarded buses and received a guided tour of London including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. The night ended with an early dinner at Princess Diana’s favorite pizza place followed by an evening at Royal Albert Hall to hear the London Philharmonic accompanied by lasers and strobe lights. The outpouring of English patriotism at the end of the performance when the orchestra began playing Rule, Britannia made even the staunchest Yanks such as ourselves yearn to be British
The next day, Monday, singers had the morning to themselves. Many visited London’s famed sights such as the British Museum and the Globe Theater, while others simply went for a stroll on the snow-dusted paths of Kensington Gardens, a block from the hotel. Everyone reconvened at noon to drive out to St. Albans Abbey and Cathedral in Hertfordshire. There, everyone examined wall frescoes dating back from Roman and Norman times. Many also made the pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Alban in the rear of the cathedral, where legend has it the holy relic of his shoulder bone is buried. There, many St. Albans boys dropped down to their knees and prayed the Oath of St. Alban with one another, an experience that many will remember long after they graduate.
Tuesday, the singers again had most of the morning free to explore London. A handful of sophomores went on a arduous quest to dine at Saravana Bhavan, traveling by taxi and London tube. At noon, everyone rendezvoused at St. Paul’s Cathedral for an informal recital in the Nave. After, some of the group ran up the 528 steps to the top of the cathedral to experience an unparalleled view of the river Thames and the surrounding city, an experience that was the highlight of many people’s trips. That evening, the Chorale gave a joint performance in the Our Lady of Victories Church with the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, followed by an archetypal American dinner of hamburgers and french fries.
Wednesday was the last day in London, and the singers woke up early to journey to Ely Cathedral. There, the Chorale was given a brief tour and then went out into the town of Ely to have lunch. After eating, the Chorale gave a concert in the brilliant acoustics of the historic cathedral and then boarded the buses once again to head to Cambridge. There, the Chorale was given a guided walking tour of the beautiful colleges and lawns of the University, and then ate a steak dinner at a local restaurant. The Chorale arrived back at the hotel late at night and promptly went to bed exhausted, feeling they had made the most of their brief stay in London.
Thursday, the Chorale packed up their belongings and boarded the buses, bound for Canterbury Cathedral, another place of much importance for the students of St. Albans. There, all sophomores, juniors and seniors broke into chants of the first 18 lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, paying homage to the classic text of English literature all St. Albans students learn in their sophomore English classes. Later in the day, everyone settled into the new hotel in Oxford.
Finally, on Friday, the last day of the trip, the singers had a concert in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, and then were allowed to explore the university town before dinner. At the farewell dinner, many seniors got up and thanked Mr. Straub, Mr. Bowers, and all the chaperones for their tireless work to make the trip a reality. All in all, the trip was a great cultural and musical experience, and everyone is looking forward to the next overseas trip.