Sunday, April 19, 2009

This weekend I drove down to Atlanta to see the Canterbury Cathedral Choir who are touring the states. They were at St. Philip’s cathedral, a huge and beautiful Episcopalian church in an upscale part of town.

The choir has already been to Chicago, Indianapolis and Sewanee, Tennessee and still have Charleston, Richmond, New York, D. C. and Whitemarsh, Pa. ahead of them. It looked like a comfortable bus but that is still a lot of miles to cover.
Before the show I watched for a few minutes as the boys played in the church playground. The were running, climbing and jumping all over the place and were so full of energy they didn’t look as if the tour was wearing on them. Near the end of the show, though, some of them were trying to hide their yawns.

It was a really nice show and I was happy to see how many people turned out for it. The auditorium held, I believe, 2,000 people and it was nearly full. As usual, I got there early for a seat near the front.
There were twelve men and eighteen boys, all dressed in royal purple cassocks, the boys with upright ruffled collars and the men with short ones.
They opened with Vigilate by William Byrd and went on to works by Parsons, Tallis, Scarlatti, Britten and a lot more. Sometimes they were backed up by St. Philip’s big pipe organ and other times it was just their wonderful voices. There was no need for microphones here, they filled the hall with their powerful notes.

What I like about being at a concert like that and sitting close is that it makes easier to follow the different voices as they weave in and out of each other, rising and falling, swelling and softening, complex but always harmonic. It’s fascinating.

All of the music was sacred music except for their last song, their second encore, when they made everyone smile with a sweet, funny version of I Got Rhythm.

While I was there I picked up their newest CD, Ceremony. It features soloist Joel Whitewood, the 2007 Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year. The boys sing Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and a lot of other nice standards.


  1. In all the choir concerts that I have attended, it seems that the ones in churches are the best. I think you get more of a feeling of intamacy with the music. One of my all time favorite concerts in this type of setting was seeing Kings College at St. Johns Cathedral in Cleveland Ohio.

    When you say "set up front", you never want to set in the first couple rows. The reason is that there is a focal point in the projection of the music and if your to close, some of the voices from the fringe tend to pass you by. I like to set somewhere between row 6 and 10. This veries depending on how close the first row is to the choir of course.

  2. As luck would have it, we were in row 6. That's good information to keep in mind. Thanks.
    I really, really hope that I get to see King's College one day soon. That is so great.

  3. Kings and St. Johns are the two UK College choirs that I have had the pleasure of seeing. They are both excellent. But, my all time favorite concerts have been the two times I have had the pleasure of seeing Drakensburg. Their energy on stage is electrifying. It is the only choir that I have seen that sings with smiles on their faces. And when they get into the Native African portion of their performances, Oh My!! You need to put them on your list to see also. They will be in the USA next year but not sure where they will be performing.

  4. They are definitely on my short list to see. I hope they come to somewhere within a day's drive. I drove 500 miles to see Libera but the other concerts I've seen have been only a few hours away.