Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Aaaaahhh falling behind!

So . . . the Wind in the Willows.

'Twas a ballet. 'Twas enchanting. The set was built primarily as an attic full of old stuff . . . wardrobes and benches and chairs and carpets. The dancers made all of these things into rivers and trees and caravans and prisons and the front steps of Toad Hall. It was very much like being six years old again, and being able to see all the pent-up possibility in everything around you. Absolutely lovely. I haven't any pictures, so I keep forgetting to mention it, but it was lovely. Kenneth Graeme was the narrator, and the cast were just . . . splendid. Telling stories with their bodies. Such a fascinating idea. Such a lovely night.

So . . . bells.

Last Thursday was my first ringing lesson, with ever-patient instructor Billy. I got to pull half-strokes; he caught the bell every time I pulled it so I didn't break anything. I managed to make the bell 'stand' once. (For those of you who are not experts like me, this means getting the bell to come to rest pointing almost straight up. Getting a bell to hang out in this position is what lets you change the timing between rings, which is what allows change ringing to work at all. And I did it! Once.)

Here is a bit of change ringing, for those who have not seen it.

The lady on the far right, in a moment when I wasn't filming her, mis-timed the bell a little bit and, I swear to high heaven, got yanked four inches off her box trying to get the huge tenor bell under control. And nobody thought this was a big deal.

So . . . last Saturday was our run out to Canterbury. On the way, we stopped at this very pretty castle, called Bodiam, which we got to climb around like maniacs. 

Canterbury itself is a lovely little town, though our visit was rather disjointed. We were supposed to see both the cathedral and St. Augustine's abbey. We arrived too late to get to the abbey before our tour at the cathedral. I planned to just go to the abbey afterwards, but then I walked into the cathedral and this was happening: 

Messiah Rehearsal.
I sat and watched until the choir took a break, then actually looked at the actual cathedral like we'd come here to do. So here's the altar where St. Thomas Beckett was killed, by four knights (their four swords are all worked into the cross here: two in metal and two in shadow. I thought that was cool. Also the blending of Thomas's death and Christ's death over an altar where we lay our souls in sacrifice.)

And here's where Beckett's body was entombed until Henry VIII kicked him out and stole his church. Well, Tudors will be Tudors. 

And here's where Edward the Black Prince is entombed! Even Henry wasn't gutsy enough to try to kick out Edward. So there he still is, with replicas of his stuff hanging over him. (The real stuff is in a glass case around the corner. Yep, his shirt survived the Tudors AND the Roundheads AND the Nazis. Told you this guy was a boss.)

Don't Mess With Dead Black Princes.

And just when I was thinking it was time to explore elsewhere, the choir practice started up again.

They'd closed off the nave, in anticipation of closing time for tourists, so I sat on the steps leading up to the quire, behind the risers set up for the choir. (Choir: bunch of people singing. Quire: space specifically designed for the choir to sit in. This choir was too big to fit in the quire, so they were on risers in the nave.) I sat there for the better part of an hour, singing along. I have never heard the Messiah sound quite so magnificent. The basses, like the voice of God; the tenors, like heavenly warrior-angels; the altos like prophetesses; the sopranos as high and clear and bright as the stars. All of their voices were ringing off the stone in every direction. It was amazing. And I sang with them. I sang Handel's Messiah in Canterbury Cathedral. Sure, I snuck into it, but I sang it, aloud, with a full choir, and it sounded awesome.

Guerilla performance. The things I come up with.

I left the cathedral when I was very nicely kicked out, and wandered the dark town by myself for a while. I narrowly avoided being caught in a hailstorm, which was exciting, and had dinner in a little American-style diner while reading The Woman in White, which is also very exciting.

There we go. Updated. Tomorrow, with any luck, I shall tell you all about what happened yesterday (a mad chase to see Othello through some truly tragic traffic), and what happened today (Stonehenge, Bath, Austen, and an Abbey) and what will happen tomorrow (Henry V) and the day after (Hampton Court). It's a pretty exciting week, and it's not nearly done yet. 

1 comment:

  1. Is this the Jude Law performance Henry V? If so, enjoy, it's excellent! And have fun at Hampton Court, it's all just so Henry VIII. "I like this palace. I think I shall take it!"