St Paul’s Cathedral Choir has long been part of the ‘special relationship’. It was in 1953, shortly after the Coronation, that the choir undertook a gargantuan 2-month, 40-concert tour, travelling aboard The Queen Elizabeth as a symbol of friendship between our two nations.
The choir’s 1953 tour was related to Winston Churchill and President Eisenhower’s creation of the American Memorial Chapel, which commemorates 28,000 names of US servicemen who lost their lives in Europe during the Second World War. Following a dedication service at St Paul’s, Canon John Collins wrote: “No one who was present at that service could doubt that it manifestly symbolised the best which binds our two nations in friendship which can never be broken so long as we share those common aims for which the sacrifice commemorated was made.”
The choir tour which followed the chapel’s dedication, and which received Royal blessing, was remarkable in many ways. The tour required travelling some 8,500 miles by bus and train, staying in numerous hotels for short periods with the associated logistical problems for dealing with laundry and moving music and equipment. These challenges were overcome and the tour proved a resounding success.
Canon Collins wrote: “Everywhere the Choir was received most enthusiastically. The Choir went to America with its gift of goodwill, it returned to Britain the bearer of this same gift enriched a thousand-fold from the American people.”
In 1953, one rehearsal had to be conducted in a train carriage which Sir John Dykes Bower (seen below) had commandeered for the choir’s use, en route to the White House. Our 2015 rehearsals will not need to take place on the move, and transportation has greatly improved since that time. However, in many ways, little has changed since 1953, as we carry with us the same sense of pride and a spirit of friendship as we prepare to meet audiences across the USA.
Since 1953, the choir has regularly toured the USA, including a 1953 anniversary tour in 1993, and again in 2003. We travel to the States next week with an overwhelming sense of history, support, and friendship, not least because of the warm encouragement we have already received from friends diplomatic and otherwise. Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter.
Credits: Peter Chapman, Chorister on the 1953 Choir Tour and St Paul’s Cathedral’s first Lay Canon.