Oxford: Day 1

It is now about 5:30 am in Oxford, and everything is beautiful.

Sunlight, gently caressing each charming brick building outside the window I am sitting by. Birds chattering the morning away. A cool breeze blowing, carrying the fresh scent of a promising new day.

I half expect to see Mr. Darcy strolling by or Mary Poppins come shooting up from one of the chimneys. Indeed, the possibilities are endless.

And thus, accompanied by this perfect morning, I shall write about our experiences yesterday… ish.

Hey, for a person whose body is functioning in a jumble of 3 time zones (Japan, U.S. EST, and England), I think I’m doing pretty well.

Our journey started with a 4 hour delay on the flight to Heathrow International Airport.  I know, it was devastating. After all, our 9 p.m. departure was going to be at 1 a.m.. Jet lag? Oh yeah, big time.

Well, I’m pleased to say that we dealt with this entire escapade the Williamson Way: with humor, class, and a touch of swag. Oh yes, and it was Jake Ezzo’s first time flying, and he was flying International. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the most courageous act of the day. All in all we finally made it to Heathrow and clambered onto the bus to Oxford University.

Ah, the rolling hills, the endless fields. The horses! Cows! Sheep! A bird! Everything sang “England~♪” as we zoomed by. Not only that, the roads faced the right way! The temperature was in celsius degrees! I practically felt like I was at home in Hokkaido Japan. Naturally, I wanted to run off the bus and start singing “The hills are aliiiiive, with the sound of muuuusic~!”

But before I could carry out my wish, we had arrived at St. Stephen’s House, the place where most of our activities would occur.

I was one of the lucky few chosen to reside in St. Stephen’s House. This building is what Mr. Whitbourn described perfectly as being very much like Platform 9 and 3/4. To the casual eye, it just looks like another adorable brick building. But there is a magical world inside to be sure. In this “dorm,” there is a sonorous chapel and an elegant church, and it is in this church that we held our first meeting. Unfortunately it was cut rather short for the sake of the greater good.


With tummies satisfied and brains moderately caffeinated, we headed for the church once more and learned plainchant 101. At first I wondered, “Why, in a week which would be an entire spiel on conducting, are we going to sing chant that requires nobody to stand on the podium?”

Two things became apparent.

First, that Mr. Whitbourn is like Master Yoda in that there is always a deeper reason why he’s teaching us something (other than teaching us how to sing cubic notes and squiggly lines). Second, that this deeper reason was to make us listen to each other.

Being away from choral life for over a month, I had forgotten that the most important thing in an ensemble is to listen and breathe together. Singing the chants helped me to remember that.

Once we went through the sequence, we ran through the entire chant sequence in the chapel. The actual compline will be held at 10 p.m. tonight and will surely be an enchanting experience for all of us.

Jumping jelly beans, it’s almost breakfast time! Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is where I take my leave for now, with the smell of ham and eggs wafting in the morning breeze in my wake.

About choralmusicinstitute

Presented by Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Oxford University's St. Stephen's House, the one-week institute provides instruction to all levels of conductors.
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2 Responses to Oxford: Day 1

  1. Sue McMahon says:

    Have the time of your life!

  2. Pingback: New video of St George’s Music Programs | St George's Music Blog

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