Westminster Abbey with The Purcell Club
– a musical and historical tour
Saturday 20th October 2018
Our society was fortunate enough to be invited to take part in this recent tour. The actual organisation of the day became concerning when we discovered that the March for the People’s Vote would be held on the same day. We left Cranleigh a little earlier than intended and through the talents of our driver, Luke, we arrived close to the Abbey in very good time. We saw people from the March leaving but we had plenty of time to see and meet many of them in Parliament Square, on a glorious October day. The atmosphere was friendly and calm and was an unexpected, additional extra to our outing.
As there is high security in the area, and therefore few catering outlets, we had booked to eat in the Abbey’s Cellarium, which was very enjoyable, and where the monks would have eaten originally.
We then made our way into the West End of the Abbey and were met by William Wallace, a member of the Purcell Club who would be leading our tour but he also joined the singers at various stopping points. The Purcell Club is made up predominantly of ex-Abbey choristers.
The singers specialise in close harmony and plainsong which tends to explain why they have taken the English composer Purcell for their title.
The music was varied, ranging from monastic plainsong, through Palestrina, of course Purcell and the more classical side of Sir Arthur Sullivan. We also had a stirring organ solo whilst seated in the Nave and Shakespeare’s Henry V Agincourt speech close to the Lady Chapel.
We walked round via the Quire, the Lantern Crossing, the Lady Chapel, Poets Corner, the Musician’s Aisle, the Nave ending at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior; the latter being particularly poignant it being 100 years since the end of World War I. At each stop we learned more about the Abbey and its history.
This was a very special occasion and being in the Abbey in quiet and stillness gave us all the opportunity to learn more of its history and to think what being there meant to each of us. Our thanks must go to the Purcell Club for their divine music and providing the occasion and further thanks to our amazing Outings Secretary, Gwen Wright, for the time and effort required to ensure such joy.