‘This is awesome’ – a commonly used word in the great US of A to encapsulate the superlatives of a situation. And, even after only a few days, there have been many superlatives already: from Tudor music and the choral sounds of the modern world to trolley buses and duck tours; from Royalty and Remembrance to baseball and fried chicken (with a vegetarian alternative). There have been three standing ovations and repeated expressions of awe and delight at the behaviour of the boys (those aged between 10 and 13 – I can’t speak for the Vicars Choral) and we are making many new friends.
We’re here to share something of our spiritual inheritance with people who, though geographically distant, are historically close. And we’re here to make new friends – not least so that we can reinvigorate our network of US supporters. The people we meet on this tour we will stay in touch with.
‘Do you have to attend every concert?’ an elderly lady at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon leant forward and asked me yesterday afternoon. I beamed a large yes back at her. She nodded approvingly and, I think, rather enviously before sitting back misty-eyed as the choir began its next item. At least she didn’t say, ‘Do you come here often?’ ‘No, mam, not since 1953!’ And then afternoon tea with donuts and popcorn.
On choir tours, you do the ambassador for the Anglican choral tradition thing and encourage people to visit your home turf – ‘back at the ranch’. Apparently, I don’t pronounce ‘ranch’ correctly but I’m working on it. There’s also the team bonding thing. At St Paul’s, the different components of the choir can sometimes feel like ships that pass in the night in the Dean’s Aisle. On tour you lunch with choristers – and one of them gives you a concise history of the whole of the twentieth century over macaroni cheese (thanks, Arthur). That wasn’t as bad as being asked what predestination is while going through airport security. ‘The right to avoid purgatory,’ I answered, ‘and, if you want to know what purgatory is, it’s airport security.’ Reach for the Haribos.
And we had our own church service yesterday morning in a sports hall at the Methodist Church – instant liturgy with a score board. The assistant director of music of St Philip’s Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta said it was the finest concert he had ever attended. St Paul’s Cathedral Choir is up there on the world stage, thanks to Andrew Carwood and the many people who make up and support it. Even when the Organist sounds the chimes stop in ‘The Call of Wisdom’ (thanks, Simon).