Friday, July 11, 2014

A note about the word “facilities…”

In a previous post I mentioned that some of the members of the choir are staying at St. Stephen’s House and the others, including me, are staying at the dormitories of Christ Church. Initially, I was told that the dorms only were called Christ Church. So, accordingly, I referred to Christ Church as the “facilities” around the corner from St. Stephen’s.

To me, this was an appropriate term, befitting the residential buildings we’re staying in. Apparently, though, my usage of this word brought much amusement to both Dr. Jordan and James Whitbourn. Now, there’s something you should know about Dr. Jordan: he is a notorious joker and never misses an opportunity to have a laugh with us, often at our expense. While the jokes always come from a place of love, they are always brilliantly, painfully honest. Usually, his one bit of ammunition against me is about this pair of boots that I own that he calls my “ratty war boots.” (I still think they’re cute). So, naturally when I saw him approaching the other day with a smirk on his face I assumed I was going to get blasted for my footwear, as usual. This zinger however had to do with the word “facilities.” In the spirit of fun (and brutal honesty), he asked me about my use of the word “facilities” in reference to Christ Church. I looked at him confusedly and he explained, “Christ Church ain’t no ‘facilities.’” Not understanding what he meant by this, I just laughed it off, thinking that it was just another Dr. Jordan joke. Later in the day, though, James Whitbourn mentioned that he, too, found my comment chuckle-worthy. Feeling thoroughly puzzled, I simply went about my day, wondering what they could have meant.

Today, I discovered what exactly what was so funny.

This afternoon we were privileged enough to visit the Christ Church, which as it turns out is not just a set of dorm buildings. Walking into the courtyards of Christ Church, you are shadowed by an enormous clock tower with black and gold detailing. I’ve never been to France, but from the pictures I’ve seen, this amazing college reminded me greatly of the palace at Versailles (at least from the outside).

From the courtyards, we were led by James Whitbourn upstairs to the library, which is considered to be the “New Library” at the House (it was built in 1772…that’s “new” here). Inside, we were given the great honor of viewing a private exhibition of original music manuscripts by Victoria, Gibbons, and countless others, as well as a set of cornets that were played for King James I’s visit to the library in the 17th century. It was truly breathtaking to witness these artifacts so closely that you could literally see the pen strokes of the scribes.

ManuscriptManuscript Display

At one point James Whitbourn, also a joker in his own right, said to me, “So here is the Christ Church you mentioned in your blog.” I laughed at my original misunderstanding, now realizing that “facilities” was a vastly ridiculous term to describe the magnificence that was before me. When I told Dr. Jordan the truth behind my use of the word (that is, that I thought Christ Church was the name of a dormitory…which to be fair, I thought was a strange name for a dorm), he simply said, “It’s okay, honey, it’s just the boots.”

While today’s lesson in word usage was yet another example of culture shock for me here in Oxford, it proves a couple of very important points about being a member of the Westminster Williamson Voices family:

1.)    You definitely don’t know as much as you think you do. There’s always something to be learned.

2.)   The second you think that you know what you’re talking about when you actually don’t, you’d better look out because the zingers will be flying.

In all seriousness, though, it’s wonderful to be part of such a loving and supportive family where even when you make a stupid slip-up like calling the glorious Christ Church a mere “facility,” you will always find a good laugh and a good friend at the heart of all criticism. As I quoted James Whitbourn saying in that very same post, “And if someone does something wrong, it 100% doesn’t matter—it’s about the progress.” I have certainly made progress in my understanding of the culture of Oxford, and, of course, the proper use of the word “facilities.”


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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