Since today was Sunday, and All Saints Episcopal Church sits conspicuously across the heath in front of our hotel, we decided to take advantage of that proximity and – after breakfast – walked over for the 10:30 parish mass service. It was well worth the time. In some ways it was like going back 50 years, to the days of my Catholic religious upbringing – Sunday church, processions led by a cross-bearing altar boy, dozens of other child “servers,” serious choir music, well-prepared and -read sermons, a smoothly-coordinated liturgy, tons of incense, etc. The Anglican/Episcopal liturgy is remarkably similar to the Catholic, imparting an unusual level of familiarity and comfort to me. Father Nicholas Cranfield, the vicar, and a guest priest from another parish, were concelebrants of the Mass.
According to their website, worship follows the traditional style of the Church of England. Morning and Evening Prayer are said daily according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Parish Mass on Sundays, which we attended, is a sung communion service with a full robed choir.
Music forms a major part of worship life at All Saints Episcopal. The English composer Alfred Cellier (1844-1891), who conducted many premieres of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, was the first Director of Music and Organist, from 1862. His own opera, Dorothy, was the longest running opera in the 19th century and he later composed operas with Gilbert.
After the service, coffee or tea with biscotti was served at the back of the church for the “price” of a voluntary donation. At that point we met three local church members – an American-born [Washington, D.C., in fact, like me] woman who’s lived in London for 50 years, and had developed a not very convincing British accent; the concelebrant priest who was interested in our history and reason for attending the service; and a lawyer named John Heath who works downtown at the Bank of England, very near to the site of our Thursday concert St Mary-le-Bow. Though I didn’t suggest it, he volunteered that he might be able to come. We’ll see. [He did come, it turns out.]
As we left the church, we stepped out into an absolutely fabulous day – a clear blue cloudless sky, 72° temps, and clumps of people scattered out all across the heath, either walking or lying out on the grass. We were guessing that, for England at this time of year, this was a rare bit of weather.
At this point it was time for me to head for a 2:30 rehearsal with Suré – again at Gregory Rose’s house, some 45 minutes away by train. After some unexpected delays due to track repairs, causing me to have to take a bus instead of the train for a short leg of the journey, I arrived at Professor Rose’s home only 10 minutes late. Suré told me it was “surely your lucky day.” According to her, I could’ve been 2 or more hours late, with that kind of delay threatening.
Anyway, I was there so Greg sat in and commented on our practice of the Barber Hermit Songs. This proved to be very helpful since of course he’s a fine, trained singer, schooled in the tradition of English school and choir music since he was a boy by his famous Oxford lecturer, conductor and composer father, Bernard Rose. So his comments to both of us were particularly welcome – and timely – considering that our first concert is this Thursday! Afterwards I worked on further winning the confidences of both George, the Roses’ tuxedo cat, and Ess-Cee (that’d be “S-C”, for “Scaredy-Cat”!), their ginger cat – both with a small amount of success.
After return to the hotel via train and double-decker bus, I heard of Marge and Grace’s day walking the grounds of Greenwich Park, the naval observatory, national maritime museum, the Cutty Sark ship, AND Gregory Rose’s college home, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, which is really the reason we are staying in the Greenwich/Blackheath region of London in the first place. Grace and I set out to the local grocery stores in search of fruit, yogurt and take-away Chinese food, from the only one in town, Sun Bo. It was only so-so, I’m afraid. But a good and full day was nonetheless had by all, to be sure.