Day 2: Washington D.C. in the sun

We awoke to another beautiful day here in Virginia, and after a hearty breakfast we all got the bus into Washington D.C. for a day of sight seeing. Whilst the boys went to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, on Washington’s famous National Mall, the men divided up; some went to museums, including the National Holocaust Museum and the National Art Gallery, and some of went for a walk around the city, taking in some of the key sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Washington. These included the Lincoln memorial, the White House (where we were ushered away from the gate whilst President Obama left in a convoy!), the Jefferson memorial, and Washington National Cathedral – one of my personal favourite buildings in the world.

image Washington National Cathedral 

For a few of us, lunch was from an eatery called ‘WTF’, which is apparently a blasphemous acronym used by the youth of today, but which for lunch just meant ‘Woodward Take-away Food’. Despite this name, we took not away, but stayed resolutely in the restaurant to eat our ‘piggly-wiggly’, a sandwich comprising almost entirely pig related components. Healthy it was not, but tasty it certainly was. After more sightseeing, we reconvened to hop on the bus back to Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), where we were joined at long last by bass lay clerk Henry Hawkesworth. Henry had to come out a day later than we, after delivering two Messiahs in Banbury – a feat of which even the Blessed Virgin Mary would be proud.

We then had a short rehearsal in the beautiful chapel at VTS, to get used to the organ and the very resonant acoustic of the chapel, before heading to the refectory for a dinner of great quality and size. There was succulent chicken, soft sweet potato, juicy sausage, wholesome pasta, fresh salad, bread ‘to strengthen man’s heart’ [Psalm 104: 15], then ice cream for pudding. After dinner several of the men headed to the local supermarket to buy a frisbee, and before bed a game of frisbee was had, a game which highlighted significant problems with the group’s eyesight, fitness and coordination: things we have subsequently resolved to work on in the coming weeks. We look forward tomorrow to the first concert here at the Seminary, before moving on to North Carolina on Friday and from there into significantly colder climes…

WETA will broadcast the Washington Performance on Sunday April 10 9pm

Classical WETA will broadcast on Sunday, April 10, at 9 pm.

Last day in DC – Pics

Vincenzo looking very diplomatic

Spring in DC – a great time of year before it gets too hot

The residence still stands!

What the choristers are really like inside

We did not lose one of them


Where the boys had breakfast

HT Di Stewart

The Washington National Performance

Having the chance to either sleep-in and chill out or explore the city appealed to everyone. Personally I opted for the former but talking to the lads, some had had a busy morning soaking up the sights and sounds – something I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

The orchestral rehearsal began at 3pm and it was good to start getting an idea of the Cathedral’s acoustic. From a singer’s point of view, it was difficult to hear those close to you, let alone the whole ensemble. We had to trust Dr Darlington and his right hand man for feedback on what was working. Basically, everyone felt a bit like a soloist, which is not always a bad thing.

The rehearsal ran smoothly and pieces like Allegri’s Miserere worked particularly well in the giant building. Lassus’ De Profundis also worked well with its slower, chordal harmony able to be sustained and overlapped with the wash of sound. The two and a half hour rehearsal at least gave us an opportunity to feel a bit more at ease with the acoustic and people were looking forward to having a full house in front of them to spur them on.

Dinner and a break came and went and 7.30pm rolled around. The Cathedral had filled up with the 1200 pre-sold tickets, as of yesterday, and more from the walk-in crowd so I think we must have had close to 1500 there. It really lifted us and, having already had the chance to run the first half’s music at Davidson, we felt more comfortable with it tonight. Everything ran smoothly and musically – the building did the rest. Particular highlights for members of the audience and choir were the Kyrie “le Roy” and Allegri’s Miserere.

The semi-chorus was placed some 70 metres behind the choir at the high altar and the ethereal effect was heightened by that distance. The sound carried easily and it was a really special experience for both the performers and the listeners. Those sort of pieces are done a lot and don’t necessarily work as well in certain acoustics – not the case here!

What a thrill to hear Clive play the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV542 on the magnificent Aeolian-Skinner organ as well!

A standing ovation at the mid-way point in the concert was gratefully received and the Faure Requiem in the second half made for a balanced concert. Greg Skidmore and Jonny Laxton gave fabulous performances in the Offertory and Libera me, and Pie Jesu, respectively. A few gents were a bit miffed that a rather attractive female was in tears after Jonny’s solo! The ‘concertised’ work is very popular all around the world and tonight’s performance was no exception. The audience gave us another standing ovation and, like us, I’m sure they’ll remember this concert for a long time. Who knows when we’ll next get an opportunity to sing here in the future. If not, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and sent the punters on their way home with a smile on their faces.

Day off tomorrow so there are tours for the boys and those who signed up for the Spy Museum and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A group of us are going to the ball game, which should be a laugh! Others will head for some pictures in front of the White House. The National Gallery is apparently amazing too. To be honest, there is so much to see and do, and everyone can do whatever they want, so there’ll be some great stories and pictures available for tomorrow’s blog! Now it’s time for a well-earned sleep I think…

Thanks to Chris Bruerton for the daily news and to Page Smith for the secret cell phone picture

The Road to Washington




Hogwarts DC

Where the boys stay in DC

HT Di Stewart

Washington National 1st April 7.30pm

Washington National Cathedral – 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, DC 20016

Tel 202 537 6200

Performance Friday 1st April at 7.30 PM

Tonight’s programme juxtaposes some of the finest sacred choral works of the sixteenth century with Fauré’s glorious setting of the Requiem Mass.  The season of Lent has inspired a wealth of music throughout history, and two pieces are included here: Lassus’s setting of Psalm 130 and Allegri’s famous setting of Psalm 51, the Miserere.  The first half of the programme is completed with music by three English composers of the same period, John Taverner, the first director of Music at Christ Church, Thomas Tallis and Robert Parsons. After the interval, by way of contrast, the choir is joined by the Cathedral’s instrumental ensemble for one of the most iconic sacred works ever composed, Fauré’s Requiem.

De Profundis – Orlando de Lassus (1532 – 1594)

Short Instrumental Piece

Kyrie Le Roy – John Taverner (1490 – 1545)

Im ienio et fletu – Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585)

Ave Maria – Robert Parson (1530 – 1570)

Short Instrumental Piece

Miserere Gregorio Allegri (1582 – 1652)


Requiem – Gabriel Faure (1845 – 1924)