Today marked the opening service of the 289th Three Choirs Festival, and I could not help but think the Brits do it best—the pomp, the pageantry and the sheer grandeur of it all. In many ways it was like the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, with the entrance procession lasting 20 minutes! As we walked to the cathedral from our hotel, we could hear the change ringing:
Here was the sequence of events as listed in the program:
11:10 am. The civic procession enters by way of the south porch. The brass ensemble plays
Festival Fanfare -James D’Angelo
11:20 am. Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire are received at the south porch and escorted to their seats by the Dean. The brass ensemble plays
Salvum fac populum -Charles-Marie Widor
11:25 am. The procession of the visiting clergy enters through the west cloister door. The brass ensemble plays
The Earl of Oxford’s March -William Byrd
11:28 am. The organ is played as the Bishop of Gloucester’s procession enters
11:30 am. When all are in their places, the brass ensemble plays
Civic Fanfare -Edward Elgar
Then the cathedral choir and the festival chorus sang the National Anthem (God save our gracious Queen), I think in the key of B-flat, making a high G as the highest note. No wonder they did not have the audience sing along!
What a fantastic opening! I don’t think I have ever seen so many colorful costumes, copes and mitres in such a grand procession before. It was like watching a royal coronation or some other grand state occasion, with the large brass ensemble lending an air of festivity and celebration. The rest of the service contained hymns, anthems, readings, prayers and a sermon that contained much humor. The choral music included the Centennial Te Deum of William Walton and Gerald Finzi’s God has gone up with a triumphant shout.
You see, it has been 289 years since the choirs of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford Cathedrals came together every year to have a week-long, grand music festival. Here is a short video clip of the final postlude:
In the afternoon, Vreni and I took the train to Worcester Cathedral and stayed for Evensong, which was sung by an American choir from St. Philip in the Hills, Tucson, AZ. Just last night Vreni heard Evensong at Bristol Cathedral with a visiting choir from Hartford, CT. And remember that I heard the Valencia High School choir in Notre Dame. Isn’t it ironic that we come all the way to England to hear American choirs because the English choirs are on holiday!