Oxford: Day 4

We began the fourth day by taking a leisurely stroll to the Bodleian Library.

Just because we can.

But indeed, it was a bookworm’s dream-come-true. You know that scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where the Beast gives Belle the entirety of his jaw-dropping gorgeous library? Well, that scene’s soundtrack was definitely on repeat in my head as we toured around the Bodleian.

But not only did we get to see old books and buildings. We saw manuscripts of choral music written by great British composers from Thomas Tallis to Howard Goodall. Several of the pieces that were laid out for us made me swoon: Tallis’ If ye love me, Handel’s Messiah, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the piece Westminster Symphonic Choir did at the end of last semester. To be assured, there were spurts of major fan-girl moments, and I barely suppressed my screams of excitement. But THIS, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment when it finally hit me that these were REAL PEOPLE who did ordinary people activities while also nonchalantly writing epic music with their own hands. Oh, but you might be interested to know that Handel’s handwriting was just as scraggly as my little brother’s.

Don’t tell him I said that.

Anyway, after our epic morning we each went on our separate ways with permission to be full-out tourists. A couple of my friends and I ventured to the pub where none other than C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien had a pint at the same table. Unfortunately, we couldn’t secure a table and had to leave to have lunch at the cafe next door (which had marvelous sandwiches by the way). But we were there, and that’s what mattered. Tummies satisfied, we walked through Oxford city and marveled at how beautiful it is with old buildings standing regally beside their newer descendants.

After we got back to St. Stephen’s, I was sorely disappointed to be reminded that tea-time was cancelled. But it was for a greater good. (Yea I know. Who would’ve thought there’s anything “gooder” then tea?!)

Extra rehearsal for St. Nicolas.

Indeed it was a fruitful hour of drilling notes and rhythms to solidify our understanding of the music. Then, we straight away went to the third conducting session of this week. These sessions are one of my favorite parts of the day because, 1) we get to sing, and 2) we get to see just how much these passionate and dedicated conductors improve each day. This particular session proved to be a really emotional one for many of us. My group was lucky enough to have witnessed the magical moment when one of the participants truly opened up to everything in front of her: the music, the choir and herself. It was a transformation that took my breath away and was enough to make a third of the choir tear up. Oh music. Why you so good to us?

And theeeennnnn our first dinner at St. Stephen’s (until now we’ve always been eating out)! It was, of course, nothing less than delicious. After dinner, I visited the indoor “courtyard” where my friends were casually having their first game of croquet and were engaged in general frolicking.


Tom and Brianne



Um Will? I think that’s the wrong game…


Chris Fillice does a beautiful high kick. Don’t be jealous.

Last on our schedules was the Compline rehearsal, followed by a second go at the Compline itself. Ahhh remember what I said? Well, it was true, and we were more attuned to everything. As Mr. Whitbourn has said, it really is about coming together in body, mind and spirit to reach this sort of tranquility and peace.

Ah yes, it was a looong day. But it proved to be one of the most musically satisfying days I’ve had so far. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a great day 🙂

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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