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Southwark Cathedral – singing Sunday’s services, 6th January, Epiphany

Waiting in the cold dark at the bus stop at 7.15 last Sunday morning, I had my doubts – why did I agree to sing today? Then a member of the Kew Urban Dawn Chorus (probably a robin) burst into song and reminded me. I love singing! Sure enough, by the end of the day I was truly wrapped up in a blissful, dizzy cloud of ardour, having sung my heart out.

On this Epiphany Sunday a fairly small group of us (depleted, sadly, by a few last minute illnesses) from Thames Philharmonic Choir were singing at the Eucharist and Evensong services at Southwark Cathedral. We gathered at 9am in the Choir Vestry to warm up and practise the gorgeous selection of music, including Howells haunting Collegium Regale, Faure’s Cantique de John Racine, Sumsion’s sumptuous Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and Stanford’s wonderful The Lord is my Shepherd which starts with such a funky wild west tune that it’s difficult not to sway from side to side with the rhythm.

Our music director, leader, conductor and source of inspiration, John Bate, was encouraging, positive and calm throughout, in spite of some last minute changes that cropped up during the day. We were very lucky to have the superbly talented organist, Stephen (Diz) Disley to play for us during the services and advise on Southwark custom and practice in various parts of the services.

Although the building itself was a little cool in places, the cathedral community were warmly welcoming and, most importantly, there was a generous supply of good coffee and biscuits. The cafeteria also came up trumps, supplying us with an excellent choice of hot dishes for lunch. Afterwards, when wandering around the fascinating Borough Market area for a breath of fresh air, one could glimpse, through a plate glass window, a group of white coated people involved in, rather startlingly, a butchery demonstration, complete with huge haunch of beef hanging up beside them!

Both services went well. Evensong, although starting quite early at 3pm, includes the comforting words ‘defend us from all perils and dangers of this night’ and, in fact, when we finally left the building, the sky was beginning to darken into night. It had been an extremely enjoyable, music-filled day, thanks to all involved. I think we sang OK too!

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