After two years of planning and preparation, the Cathedral Choir and some additional travelers will depart for Coventry Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Why in the world would anyone undertake such a project?
A choir tour is great fun for the singers. It’s a chance to travel abroad, sing in wonderful places that you would not be able to sing on your own, and visit sights you would not see otherwise. It builds camaraderie within the group. It enhances the musicality of the choir. It’s great for the choir. But there are other aspects. It’s a pilgrimage, a time for personal reflection and spiritual renewal. Individuals are moved to depths they might never otherwise experience. It also allows us to bring a bit of the US, Erie, the Episcopal Church and our Diocese to those who hear us sing. We’re ambassadors, perhaps even evangelists! The majority of the music we will be singing is by American composers, including Harry T. Burleigh. We’ll be bringing copies of our CD to distribute to share the story and music of Burleigh and his connection to our Cathedral and city.
Here are some quotes from individuals on our last two choir trips that illustrate the impact:
“It was the trip of a lifetime which we will always cherish. It certainly left a mark on us spiritually and made us proud to be Episcopalians.” “Much had been spoken in advance about the pilgrimage aspect of our trip but I was thinking of it only as a vacation. However, our first night singing at Canterbury Cathedral it hit me during the anthem of what I was doing. I knew that if I gave into those feelings I would not be able to finish the piece so in true “stiff upper lip” mode, I pressed on. That was a moment I will remember for a long time.”
On this trip, August 3-13, we have 24 singers, most of whom are regular members of the Cathedral Choir. Our organist, Ethan LaPlaca, grew up in Erie, earned a degree in music education and organ from Duquesne and now teaches in Mt Lebanon. He has been coming to Erie this past year to play for Evensongs as we prepared the repertoire for the trip. In additional to the singers, we have family members and friends who will travel with us, bringing the total number of our group to 41.
We begin with a weekend in Coventry where we will sing for the morning Eucharist and Evensong. Coventry is unique, having been bombed in WWII and later rebuilt, preserving the ruins. Dean Witcombe writes on their website: “It is a wonderful and renewing place for anyone of any age to visit. The narrative of chaos and destruction being taken and offered back to God, issuing in resurrection and new life, is one that speaks into the reality of lives of many of our visitors. The Cathedral is a physical expression of hope, of love, and of celebration.”
The majority of our time will be spent in Oxford, with the choir singing daily services at 6:00 pm from Tuesday through Sunday. We also sing for Choral Matins and the Eucharist on Sunday morning. And there will still be time for some touring each day before our daily choral services.
Dean Downey will be preaching at the morning Eucharist while we are in Coventry. He will also serve as the Officiant at Evensongs while in Oxford. Deacons Dorothy Konyha and Richard Nygaard will be traveling with us, too. Look for updates about our adventures while we are away. Please pray for safe travels and new encounters with God’s grace and glory.
Sharon Downey is Canon Musician for the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie.