July 14 Time to say goodbye

As I sit in one of the busiest airports in the world, I am stunned at the fact that it already time to leave — the city I grew to love – meeting locals, having favorite spots or restaurants, the sheer beauty and history of it.

Over Monday to Wednesday, we had countless more sessions and workshops with the conductors. Dr. Higginbottom’s session was brilliantly insightful and I struggled to keep up with all of his knowledge, but we all tried to soak in any information we could grasp. He spoke on “understanding music through French and Italian eyes,” which consisted of Williamson Voices singing excerpts from pre-selected French and Italian music, about which Dr. Higginbottom went into great detail, discussing the nuances of the culture and the role of the passionate object against non-vocal objects. These are times where I truly wish my brain was a sponge so that I could just absorb everything fully.

On Tuesday we performed a Choral Evensong at Merton College, which is another college in the University of Oxford. We sang a traditional evensong, which included a psalmody sung in the form of chant, the performance of Dr. Whibourn’s “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis,” Lord’s Prayer, reading, etc. I have never experienced services quite like compline or an evensong before, especially in the spaces in which we were able to have them. I have never seen anything like the cathedrals and chapels in the UK. Beautiful open spaces with colorful stained glass, gorgeous organs, and intricate ceiling and woodcarvings. Best of all is the immense amount of history. A conductor told me that after the evensong, someone attending the evensong said it was the most moving service they have ever been to.

On the last day, the choir had a session with Daniel Hyde at Magdalen College. We entered the session with a packet of music that had just been distributed and that we had prepared ourselves. He worked through a session of sight-reading with Williamson Voices, which showed me a great deal about how to lead a choir through quickly learning a piece. The ways you can challenge, encourage, and secure that musicianship is developed in every step of learning the music and saved for the end. We were all reading music in time signatures with which we may have had not a whole of experience, so it was definitely a huge learning opportunity. In addition, for someone who is not the best at sight-reading (like myself) – it gave me some strategies and really challenged me.

When the conductors each conducted for the last time before the concert, I was already emotional. So many people had opened up and had really taken in all that they were learning from us and the Choral Institute. It was amazing. I can confidently say that each conductor grew as a musician and human being from this Institute. It was obvious in the ways people conducted and connected with the choir in our music.

When the time for the last concert hit, I could not believe it. There were several points during the concert where I had to stop singing because I was so emotionally affected by their connection with us. Singing “Even When He is Silent” by Kim Andre Arnesen led me to finally completely break down in tears. Seeing the growth in each conductor was truly incredible. They cared so deeply for our choir and it showed during the concert. Having someone who is almost a stranger care so much about people they have really just connected with through music is a beautiful feeling.

Before all of the “thank-yous” were exchanged, Williamson Voices had one gift for the conductors. We sang Dan Forrest’s “Abide.” This is a song that has been extremely impactful for each of us individually, and one the choir has worked on over the spring semester. It reaches deep – and that shows in our sound, I think. Anyone who was trying to refrain from crying could not avoid it at this point in the concert. Something really special happened for me in that moment. I felt a lot of weight release from my body and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I just felt really content – not that I was in any kind of distress, but there was a release of sorts. It’s difficult for me to explain. It is then that I realized that singing and music, if performed with intent, is a way to open the channel into one’s emotional energy and that a person then has access to the energy and emotions that he or she may be trying to hide. I always get people who say, “I didn’t know I needed to hear that music, but I did.” They did because, through music, they were able to access a part of themselves that was difficult to deal with otherwise. That is such a gift to be able to give to others, and to ourselves for that matter. I spent hours during my traveling the next day thinking about this – and to think that it was spurred from five minutes of music. Pretty incredible.

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With Williamson Voices member, Kathleen Dunn, before the conductor concert.  This year she was a conductor!

The night ended with the conductors singing FOR US. They sang “There’s a place for us” and it was the perfect way to end the night. If that doesn’t say that they were touched by this program, I am not sure what would. It is so reaffirming to see such beautiful individuals invested in our passion and our work.

I have made my way out of Oxford and it is time to say goodbye – but not for long! I take solace in the fact that I could, if money allowed, go next year. The sound we’ve made is now buried in the walls of St. Stephen’s House, but definitely not forgotten. This experience is unlike any other musical experience I have ever had; and I mean that in the best way. Knowing that more than 14 conductors and an entire choir feels that way makes me so excited to come back to the enchanting city of Oxford, to see my family – which includes the new and returning conductors – and make more music.

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View of the center of Oxford from above.

Thank you for allowing me to be the blogger this year and reading my posts! Until next time Choral Institute at Oxford.

— Kristin
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The blessing of music

12 July 2016

The last time I traveled to Europe was in the spring of 2012 for a study-abroad semester in Florence, Italy. During one of our early group tours to a small church in Florence, I had a remarkable encounter with beauty in sacred architecture. As we walked into the church, the doorman quieted us, saying with a hush, “Remember to be quiet – there are angels here.” I was immediately struck by the seeming simple beauty and balance of the church. I quickly learned that this was a smaller church designed by Brunelleschi (the same mind who built the famous Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore). The balance I had recognized was truly innate in his designs, for he based the proportions and dimensions for the space on those of the human body: the beauty that my heart recognized in the architecture of the sacred space were the same that were most intimate and literally ‘personal’ to me.

Our tour guide began to speak of the music that was sung in a space such as this, speaking of the human beauty composers utilized and explored in their music. What he said concerning music I will always remember: “Music is a kind of beauty, the most fragile kind. It is not substantive in the same way a painting is. One moment it is there, and the next it was as if it never existed. We cannot grasp at this kind of beauty. It is not something we can hold. It is not something we can keep. We can only experience the fragility while it is there, and deeply yearn for it once it has left.”

There have been many occasions in the past four years since this experience when these words have returned to me. There was something so beautiful in how he spoke of music, something that resonated with my own experience and my own passions for the art. He was able to put into words in a small way one of the reasons I am deeply drawn to music. I was reminded of these words again on Sunday as we traveled to Sussex to sing at the Shipley Arts Festival.

Christ’s Hospital private secondary school sits on a campus that puts many American colleges to shame. The sprawling greens, the ornate stone statuary, the sheer number of buildings — all contributed to the magical impression as one walks onto the main campus. Our concert was held in a beautiful chapel on campus with two school children’s choirs from the area. In addition to making music with beautiful young voices with Dr. James Whitbourn conducting, we had the incredible privilege of a small orchestral ensemble accompanying us, with the concertmaster playing a 1696 Stradivarius violin. One of the orchestral selections was Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. It was surreal listening to the fragile sounds coming from an instrument as old as Bach. The beautiful singing melodies based on birdsongs resonated through the rich English wood of the chapel, and the virtuosity of both the accompanying ensemble and the solo violin was extraordinary. To sing in a chapel in an area of the country frequented by Vaughan Williams himself and hearing the beautiful tones of the centuries-old instrument before us was an experience that truly made me feel small.

The beautiful opportunity to make music with so many other talented musicians was truly a highlight of this week. The young voices of the children’s choirs captured in a special way the fragility of musical beauty. Contributing also was the fact that we were singing simple Shaker melodies arranged by Dr. Whitbourn — simple and memorable melodies that carried through the small chapel of Christ’s Hospital carried by young voices and old instruments, disappearing into the stone as our concert drew to a close. It was truly a wonderful blessing to experience such beautiful English music in a richly English sacred space!

__ Colton
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July 11

Wow. What an amazing weekend.

After several days of intense singing and work, we had our day off! We were given a day to explore the city, rest our voices, and relax and refocus. Most of the choir stayed up late last night in order to spend time with each other and celebrate the upcoming weekend! Therefore the day started later than it has been starting all week, with everyone – myself included – getting much needed rest.

Once everyone was awake and ready to go, a group of us headed over to the river for an hour of punting! Now, this is truly an English tradition. Lots of people – groups of people, couples, and families – gathered to get their turn to enjoy the sights from the water. Though I can’t say that any of us in my boat were very good, we definitely had a blast. We barely made it around part of the bend, but it was eventful nonetheless; we ran into trees, ran into boats full of people nearby, became entertainment for many onlookers and photo-ops for some local photographers. All in all, punting was super fun and even more so for people who could steer!

The rest of the day was filled with exploring the beautiful city. Some people saw sites from the Harry Potter movies (basically everything looks like Harry Potter – just as an aside), or climbed towers to view the city. The stone streets are filled with an immense amount of history and beauty that it is somewhat incomprehensible. A bunch of my friends and I ventured to a pub called The Bear for lunch. This is the oldest pub in Oxford, dating back to 1242! Given that the U.S. didn’t declare independence until 1776, it completely blows my mind that an establishment that old could still be fully functioning. I have to say that the burger I had at The Bear also may have been the best burger I have EVER HAD.

We all met at the end of our day full of relaxing, exploring, and socializing to join for the CIO cabaret! One of the conductors, Alexander, has led this event every year the Institute has been open. His passion for music making and community has been remarkable to see. Different members from the choir, as well as conductors, performed various pieces or shouted musical theatre lines for hours. Not only was it so fun to watch and participate in a night of pure entertainment, but it is amazing how talented these people are. Sometimes I forget what an honor it is to be surrounded by such talent every day at WCC and in Williamson Voices. Not to mention that one of the conductors sang a rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay” which ended in a monstrous standing ovation. With all of the hard work we do every day with the conductors, it was nice to socialize in a more relaxed setting.

Saturday was just the recharge we needed in order to be ready for Sunday. Yesterday, we performed at Christ’s Hospital Chapel in Sussex with children from two elementary schools and a professional orchestral group called the Bernardi Music Group. The grounds for the school, where the chapel is a part, were absolutely breath taking. Is everything in the UK just stunningly beautiful? Wow.

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View inside of the chapel where the concert was performed.

We drove a lengthy way, but did have the privilege of stopping by William Penn’s house for some tea and coffee. My dad would have been freaking out if he was with us. The amount of history and the building itself were incredible. As I am from Pennsylvania, this history was totally relevant and it is so cool being able to see part of America’s history in another part of the world.

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William Penn’s house.  Quaker meetings are still held there.

The concert was a part of the Shipley Arts Festival and was themed “A Musical pilgrimage from England to America.” The concert began and ended with traditional Shaker melodies – going along with our lessons on William Penn, Quakers and Shakers. The rest of the concert continued with performances from the Bernardi Music Group, Williamson Voices, Andrew Cleary (organist), and combined groups. The musicianship of the organist and the orchestral group was truly inspiring, especially for someone like myself, who is not surrounded by orchestral music all that often.

I am a music education major, so I absolutely LOVED watching these kids perform. They started off pretty shy, as to be expected as so many unfamiliar faces surrounded them. Dr. Whitbourn led the choir (children and Williamson Voices) through the two British folk songs and reviewed lyrics and so forth. It was incredible to hear that amount of sound that the children could produce when they were asked to sing louder than us. It was so exciting watching them get this experience to sing with a professional orchestral group and university choir at such a young age. The whole day made me feel so lucky and so excited to be in music education. The whole performance I watched wide eyes and open mouths as they listened to the orchestra and Williamson perform. You truly never know what kid is going to leave that day wanting to be a professional singer, be in an orchestral ensemble, become an organist, or simply want to sing concerts like that one. It was a really special performance for me.

Following the long bus ride back, we finally got some sleep – and thank goodness! Today starts another crazy day, which includes listening to and singing for one of the greatest musical minds in the world, Dr. Edward Higginbottom! Wish us luck!

— Kristin
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An experience of beauty

9 July 2016

Thursday evening proved to be a marker in my musical life at Westminster Choir College and in Williamson Voices. With the high standard of excellence to which all students/musicians are held at the school, I have found this can create an environment of souls thirsting for affirmation. With much rigor and constant pressure there comes an even greater desire and need for remembering why one is involved in an artistic field such as music. This also makes the reward of intense labor incredibly sweet and satisfying when one experiences those moments of achievement. This first year of graduate study afforded me a handful of experiences that were sweetly memorable and fulfilling — fuel to remember why I continue to pursue my musical passion when hope is less than present: Beethoven’s Ninth with Simon Rattle, WWV concerts, seeing my best friends conduct their Master Singers Recitals, etc. Thursday evening was a night of blessing for me. I was able to see the fruit of hard work and long patience. I was excited to hear that our Christmas CD, recorded with Dr. James Whitbourn in May, is finally ready.

Dr. Whitbourn gave us the news earlier that day, and an excitement spread through the choir like fire. He originally told us there would be a ‘premiere’ playing of it at the end of our course, but I believe in regards for his own personal safety and sanity, he was “forced” to make the premiere Thursday evening. The excitement and anticipation was in the atmosphere all day!

Dr. Steve Pilkington gave a fantastic lecture on “The Path to Expressivity,” offering many nuggets for personal contemplation as we continue through our stay here. His talk truly set the mood for our listening party. There was hardly any space left in the small commons room where Dr. Whitbourn had set up the CD player, an old upright box-tower with large subwoofers and a facade reminiscent of radios from the 40s. It struck me that the scene before me seemed historically displaced: I was sure the same feeling of anticipation and tension was shared by families nearly a century ago as they gathered around their radios to listen to baseball games, or concerts, or news of war. Musicians covered the chairs and floor of the commons, and breathing was difficult until the first notes of the recording began to play.

What ensued next was an hour of near disbelief, for I couldn’t fathom that my small voice was one among the choir singing through the speakers. The balance, the tone color, the musicianship……all of the beauty I was hearing seemed to belong to something beyond my capabilities. For an hour, I was in a sonic oasis as I sat with 60 other souls in a small room. We had the privilege of both Dr. Pilkington’s and Dr. Whitbourn’s presence during this hour, the composers and arrangers of the dulcet tones we had worked so hard to internalize and reproduce in the magnificence of the Princeton University Chapel. The final track, to my delight, was of Professor Robinson playing a truly exquisite organ fantasia. The majesty and expressivity of his playing would truly be fit for welcoming the King-Child on such a joyous occasion as His birth.

I was given the opportunity to remember again the incredible power and blessing of my craft. I have heard it before said that we as artists do not choose music, but that music chooses us. I was incredibly humbled to sit with so many other beautiful people in a small college commons and realize the amazing heartfelt musical ability that surrounded me. I was moved by the complex circuitous paths of these souls whom music had chosen all meeting at this moment in this room to share in this experience of beauty together. The journey through this institute has been filled with sweat and patience, yet the richness of beauty experienced in moments of respite such as this remind me of the deeper human reasons for my musical passion.

— Colton
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July 7 – Good Morning!

Good morning from Oxford! What a beautiful place to wake up to.

These international development programs provide so much critical networking and experiences for us as students. I mean where else would I have been able to get to hear professors from Oxford speak about musicology and chant? There are truly no words for how lucky we are to have this experience.

One of my favorite spots in Oxford thus far is a place called Rick’s Café. It’s another favorite WCC spot.

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It is quaint and has a lot of personality – which is basically true of most shops/cafes in Oxford near St. Stephen’s House. I have been able to drink tea and blog and hoping that I do not stand out as an American *laughing*.

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A sugar and lemon crepe from Rick’s Cafe! Yummmm!

Speaking of food, where else am I going to get some of the best curry in the world, besides India? The UK! I had my first experience eating authentic Indian food, and man, was it awesome! I don’t know if I would have tried it anywhere else in the world.

I CANNOT believe how beautiful this city is. I have been spending time in one particular courtyard to reflect after our sessions. St. Stephen’s House, as well as apartments that are for graduate students, encloses the courtyard – so one can see the iron-rod decks covered in planted flowers and home décor along the old brick that is brimming with character and stories to tell. The city has a quiet magic, but is enchanting nonetheless.

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View from one of the corridors en route to the chapel seen through the window. Happens to be one of my favorite courtyards in-between the corridors.

It was amazing being able to work with the conductors every day. They are all so unique with varying levels of experience. Dr. Jordan and Dr. Whitbourn keep telling the conductors that even though they are regarded as the teachers in this program, it is actually the choir that teaches them. That our singing and our connection are how they learn. That fills me with such honor and excitement, but it is almost hard to believe because I feel like I have already learned so much by watching them all for only the few minutes they conducted. They have such care and respect for us as musicians, students, and just as people. It is moving.

Watching Dr. Jordan and Dr. Whitbourn work with the conductors has taught me more about being an artist and the deep nature of the music than any technique or conducting gesture. Seeing inside Dr. Jordan’s thoughts with each song has enlightened a whole new side to the music we have performed for a year now. Stories and personal connections that he would not necessarily say otherwise, he shares with the conductors and the singers in order to clarify a meaning or greater depth to a piece.

I am moved constantly in these sessions with the conductors. The combination of the intimacy of the program and the truly unique and loving participants has created an environment where trust, honesty, and openness have been a large aspect of where each conductor grows. It is mind-blowing to me how a simple movement of hands can create a sound that is so much more open; how simple eye contact can make a sound more honest; and a conductor’s mindset for the piece can make sound flow in tune. I understand music, this choir, and artistic expression in a way I may have never understood if not for this experience. You can physically feel the changes that a conductor makes. As the singer, you can feel when someone opens up or lets go and trusts. It is remarkable. One of our Westminster Choir College and Williamson Voices alumni is a conductor this year. As he said on the very first day, “I am coming here as a musician trying to become a better person.”

Compline. Compline is an Anglican service that we perform in the evening. We have the privilege of performing the service in one of the chapels that is in St. Stephen’s House. During our time over the school year as well as the Institute, we learn about chant and rehearse it regularly. Luckily, we are in one of the best places in the world to study and perform liturgical music. At the end of the day, where it has been emotionally and physically taxing or if there was endless smiling and laughter, we can all take time to sit and be with ourselves. We can reflect and enjoy being with people who are growing in this experience with us. Whether you are spiritual or not, or believe in God or not, there is something about chant, with the unison line and stillness that follows, that causes an inward sense of being.

Although we did not have Compline last night, we had another beautiful experience in its place. Williamson Voices was able to listen to pieces we have recorded within this past year. All singers know how weird that is. However, it is a different feeling entirely to hear yourself and the people you work with and just feel so affirmed with your work. Williamson Voices is so lucky to have someone like Dr. Whitbourn who cares for the choir the way he does as the producer of our music. The amount of work he has put into our recordings and this program is inspiring. I looked around the common room in St. Stephen’s and saw my colleagues, friends, and basically my family. People in that room have helped me through some of the darkest periods of my life and been there to celebrate some of my greatest moments as well. How can you not feel like the luckiest person? I know I do. I went into this summer feeling discouraged in myself as a musician, student, and educator. Now, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and passion. There is no argument against the impact this has had on everyone involved.

–Kristin
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A New Journey

7 July 2016

I have been to Oxford once before, just over four years ago, for a leisure holiday across the beautiful country of England. There is much familiar to me now as I step back into a city of history and stone, yet this time my journey is one of study and musical beauty rather than one simply of leisure.

There is also a large part of the city that does not seem familiar. Has the city changed that much in four years? I really doubt it. Though it be relatively short, not even half a decade is still enough to change a person and how they experience the world. I readily admit that this time as I visit this wonderfully aesthetic and academic establishment I have older eyes and an older heart.

Today marks the third day of the Choral Music Institute Oxford (CIO) for the choir, and already so much has occurred. I was unfortunately delayed from participating on our first day due to an unexpected health hiccup, which quarantined me in my humble cell for the beginning of the week. As one friend put it, I seemed to have found “an ancient monk’s seven-year itch” from the monastery I visited last week in London. Needless to say, I was anxious to begin singing with my comrades and fellow conductors as soon as I could!

As I was preparing for my first session yesterday with the group, Dr. James Jordan (director of the Westminster Williamson Voices and lead in the CIO) found me and welcomed me warmly to St. Stephen’s House. This building, quietly situated in a small section of the city south of the river, is home to the CIO (now in its fourth year) and offers not only beautiful sacred spaces for executing the most transcendent choral literature, but also offers time and place for corporal quietude. There seems to be a hylomorphic quality in the large honeydew-colored buildings of St. Stephen’s: one can find fragile beauty and loftiness in the high spaces and tall arches, and one can feel the earthiness and age of the stone and wood, which both create and support this spiritual heaven.

Dr. Jordan and I walked the halls of the cloister on our way to the main church. He pointed out several “attractions” along the way, playing the part of one who introduces an acquaintance to the curiosities of one’s home. He pointed out to me a small wooden confessional as we entered the nave of the church, saying, “This is where C.S. Lewis regularly went to confession.” I, being a big fan and reader of C.S. Lewis, was drawn in instantly. I saw the aged wooden frame, dirty from generations of sin and seemingly softened from several generations of penitence, and a sort of silent reverence came over me. It lasted but only a few moments. Yet I was able to see in front of me a small wooden box that so intimately connected what was for me an immaterial knowledge and remote world (the sort gathered through reading and visiting distant lands through words) with a tangible reality over which I cast my own shadow. This moment for me was, in a sense, “incarnational”: for the C.S. Lewis in my mind was met with the world of C.S. Lewis where I stood.

The lecture given by Dr. Steve Pilkington (head of my department of studies at WCC, Sacred Music) we attended in the morning in that very church spoke of the same kind of phenomenon occurring in music. He spoke of music having an ability to incarnate the transcendent beauty of music into sound, while maintaining a noble simplicity. His presentation on the music of the Quakers/Shakers and the role of simplicity in their living styles was very well presented.

I cannot help but think that Oxford, both as a place and as an idea, is incarnate, as well. It seems a place where a forward-pushing modernity and an ‘aftward’-facing scholarship meet. It is a place of history, known for its history, traveled to because of its history, yet academically concerned with new discoveries and advancements in all fields of human learning. As I walk the street in the evenings, I see a few homeless people who could almost be mistaken as part of the old churches themselves, seemingly as old as the stones I walk. Conversely, there is also a lively night scene of young adults whose sleep schedules I cannot begin to imagine (perhaps because there is no such thing to imagine for such folk). Oxford is a meeting place for culture, language, age, brilliance, and beauty. I find it slightly humorous that a heart as young as this one has found its way to a city this storied and this old. I am not sure what this beautiful city holds for me in the coming week, but I hope to embrace each new experience and every incarnational moment afforded me. In many ways, this is a new city for a new soul.
— Colton
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July 5, 2016

Man, today was a crazy day already and it’s not even over! Even though I have traveled to Germany by myself and have attended a program abroad, I still found myself so nervous for this adventure. This is my first time in the UK and only my third time leaving the country. For the other trips, I went by myself or with a group of people I met that day, so the excitement of seeing other members of Westminster Williamson Voices overcame the nervousness of the unknown.

After an over night flight and with some very tired eyes, we arrived at St. Stephen’s House! Finally. One of the first things we did was sing through a personal favorite of mine, “Good Night, Dear Heart” by Dan Forrest. Getting to sing together after a month of summer break was so rewarding, even amidst the total jetlag. No matter how long it has been, no feeling can be compared to singing with the people you call your family.

For lunch, we adventured into the streets of Oxford. After getting delicious chicken from Nando’s (a local favorite for Westminster students), I broke off from the group to explore the local bakeshops. The shops were filled with pastries, candies I didn’t recognize, and a million treats I wanted to try. I was surprised to hear so many languages spoken all around me while walking on the streets. I don’t know why I would be surprised – given how easy is it to travel to nearby countries in the UK/Europe.

Oxford is very quaint – it’s a city, but without that big city feeling. One woman I met on the plane, who is from Philadelphia but now lives in London with her boyfriend, described Oxford in the best way. She said, “Most places don’t look like they do in movies. Oxford looks just like it does in films set there. It appears so quaint and magical, and it truly is.” Well, that woman was right.

We, along with the conductors, were then officially welcomed to the Choral Institute by Dr. Whitbourn and Dr. Jordan. All that Dr. Whitbourn had to say in regards to Oxford fascinated me. There are so many colleges that make up Oxford University, and each stand as a different community, which is different than the way we organize “colleges” in the States. It is often just an area of discipline or an “umbrella” of majors, instead of a physical separate building with its own distinct atmosphere and community. I love history, so I enjoyed hearing about the history and story of Oxford, specifically St. Stephen’s House. It has a large focus on theology, which is fitting given the chapels. There are a few throughout the ground of St. Stephen’s, though you may never know because on the street, all you see is a wide section of beautiful brick from the surrounding houses. In reality, there are small courtyards bathed in sunlight, gorgeous open windows lining a concrete walkway, and simple but elegant chapels with influences of medieval architecture.

The connection between St. Stephen’s and Westminster creates a really beautiful experience for us. Westminster was founded as a university with deep connection to religion and faith. Our traditions, like An Evening of Readings and Carols and music at Commencement, are still full of references to God and spiritually. The presence of faith and religion at St. Stephen’s, as well as music, has made it feel like a place I already know. Even though I am filled with awe and admiration of the beauty of this place, it already feels like somewhere I could call home.

Once we were properly welcomed and given the logistics for the week, we departed for our first English dinner all together. I was able to spend time with friends I haven’t seen in a month, and it filled my heart to see that there were almost too many people to sit at the tables. Not only was it a reminder of how lucky I am to be a part of this choir, but also of how lucky we are as a choir to have so many conductors and associate conductors who feel so passionate about their own musicianship that they want to connect on such a personal level with us.

Almost time for my first “tea time” at Oxford before we work with the conductors for the first time! Have to run, but wish me luck!

— Kristin
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