G'day and welcome to evensong sport!
The single biggest disappointment of the trip, I have to say was Choral Evensong at Sydney Cathedral.
It was mostly funny – but really, it shouldn’t be about entertainment so it doesn’t really make up for it!
First off, in stark contrast to the catholic cathedral near my hostel, there is no atmosphere of prayer or stillness or quiet that you might expect. One fellow service goer, who arrived in her beach gear was making a vocal phone call until about 1 minute before the service, then the clergyman — let’s call him the Dean, although I’m not sure he was — who was taking the service ambled in and handed us our orders of service (all very friendly this bit to be fair) and then exclaimed ‘strewth! I was hoping to beat the choir in but here they are!’ — as he observed the choir already processing into their stalls, as solemnly as the setting would allow. He just hobbled over to his position and introduced the service from there.
The choir were diabolical but let’s not dwell on this.
My next favourite bit was the NT reading about the birth of John the Baptist. He got most animated and expressive (the priest I mean, not John the Baptist) during bits of dialogue, with the Aussie twang being accentuated to the limit and consquently this line of dialogue was hilarious: ‘and they asked if he would be named Zecheriah. “No! He shall be named John!”‘. The ‘no’ sounding with that Aussie ‘oi’ vowel (rhyming more closely to ‘ciao’!) and quite hilarious. More like a Monty Python sketch.
What he did do very well was introduce the music with a brief explanation of what the words were about and why they are relevant. I liked that. Shame the music was so shite!
I’m told the place to go in Sydney for well sung choral music is St James’, King Street.
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The perfect tonic to this was hearing a local students’ (or post-grads) choir in Brisbane sing a eucharist for the annunication in St John’s cathedral. They sang some Poulenc and a mass by the resident organist Graham Moreton which is ethereal and very lovely, not to mention challenging. Still, even here the priest was hilarious; imagine your most ditheringly informal Revd Spooner-ish priest and that’s what they’re all like, starting services with ‘er… g’day! you’re all here… that’s good’. In his sermon, talking about the immaculate conception of Mary he actually said ‘of course gents, our contribution isn’t much anyway so that’s not much different is it?’.
I then attended Brisbane Chamber Choir’s rehearsal of Bach St John Passion. They sound great — I hope on Jenny’s behalf Sydney’s counterpart are going to be as good.