Quiristers Sing at Winchester College's Advent Carol Service
The business of preparing for Christmas can often be a stressful affair; hurriedly shopping for food and presents in brightly lit shops with bustling noisy crowds can easily give you sensory overload, but, by stepping in to Winchester College Chapel, you can find yourself transported to a place of soothing tranquillity and calm meditation.
Last Sunday’s Advent Carol service, celebrating the longest of Advents at 28 days in 2022, was a particularly transporting experience. The service began in the unusual manner of the packed congregation facing west towards Crimea (the memorial within the chapel, commemorates the 13 former students of Winchester College who gave their lives in the Crimean War). The lights were extinguished leaving only flickering candlelight, perhaps echoing those feelings of anticipation that we experience in Advent.
The Chapel Choir sang a moving rendition of ‘Never Weather Beaten Sail’, the darkness heightening the beauty of their voices and the emotion of the lyrics. As they sang ‘never tired pilgrim’s limbs’ it reminded me of how hard the Quiristers work, they always have unwavering energy and deliver excellence each and every time.
It was also poignant that as the start of the service was sung in 'Crimea', it allowed a moment of reflection for those currently in that land; Advent and Christmas will inevitably be rather less full of 'comfort and joy'.
Light was returned to the chapel, and the choir led by Howard Ionascu, proceeded down the aisle singing ‘Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth’. The congregation joined them in song before they took their usual places in the choir stalls.
The organ struck up the joyful tune of Bach’s ‘Zion hört die Wächter singen’ - how the chapel choir seemed to relish it, evidenced by the several choral heads that could be seen bobbing in time to the music; it was truly uplifting and sung with such passion.
An expectant hush fell as the rather foreboding rumbling of the organ signified the beginning of ‘There is no Rose’; the melodious, sweet-sounding choir sang in unity in what was (in my naïve opinion) a complex piece. The now augmented alto line was able to meld beautifully with the more numerous Qs, a wonderful demonstration of the increased scope of the Chapel Choir and the piece was well suited to precede the Gospel reading (Luke 1) by the Headmaster of Winchester College, as it really did seem to beckon an angelic visitation.
The organ provided a delicate backdrop for a splendid rendition of Herbert Howell’s Gloucester Magnificat with elegant harmonies and the ATB sections of the choir supplying a sense of brooding. The piece reached some dazzling and rousing crescendos.
After we recited the Lord’s Prayer, the love of singing, so synonymous with the Qs, came to the fore with the delightful ‘Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day’ and its captivating a cappella parts. The joy was felt by all and evident by a sea of smiling faces throughout the audience!
What a wonderful start to the Advent season, and we look forward to the many high calibre performances by the Qs to come in the run-up to Christmas.
Charlotte Minas, Simon Holmes and Jerry Pett