Michael and I planned an exciting study trip for March 2020. We all know what hap-pened instead. But, after placing Continuing Education on hold for four years, the two of us were finally able to revel in the highlights last week. The plan was to play and study organs recently built or rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison. Even if you don’t know their name, you’ll certainly recognize some of their instruments.
First stop was York Minster. Evensong with the girls and adults was beautiful. The boy and girl choirs share the workload evenly, and listening to rehearsal on the other side of the rood screen, in one of the most pleasant queues ever, fools many listeners when guessing which choir is singing. Playing the organ, then picking the music director’s mind about the recent organ rebuild, music programming, and other tricks of the trade was quite inspiring; and the Dean is known for organizing choir tours.
We visited a few smaller instruments in Yorkshire before a train to London led us to Westminster Cathedral for the only non-Harrison instruments of the trip. Late night in an empty cathedral is always a mystical experience. The Organ Scholar recently vacated my former job in New Haven, so we connected on several levels.
Westminster Abbey boasts a glorious instrument, though they are not fond of photos and videos. The choir was fabulous every time.
Another train took us to Canterbury Cathedral, where we were entrusted with the keys to the entire building (after Evensong, of course!). This was a perfect opportunity for Mi-chael and me to evaluate the new instrument from all over the building, texting one an-other with ideas and taking turns to play or listen. By now I had noticed how many of the cathedral musicians were younger than I am.
Back in London, we enjoyed two visits to Watts & Co., whose vestments you may have seen at the recent Coronation. A feast for the eyes and dreams.
Finally, there was the organ at All Saints’, Margaret Street, now played by a student I taught a few years ago in Sydney.
I find God in the welcoming people we meet, in well-constructed liturgies, in gaze-lifting architecture, in carefully prepared music, and in the grace-filled hospitality of all those things combined. Now to share it all in the new season’s plans.