Shrewsbury School

Giles Bell’s ‘Team of the Week’

Thursday 3 October 2013

In a departure from his usual weekly focus on one of the School's football squads, Giles Bell's 'Team of the Week' this week is the Chapel Choir. 

The Chapel Choir on the steps of St George's Chapel Windsor, 2nd October 2013

On Wednesday morning at 11.30am, two buses left the School packed to the rafters with the Chapel Choir and their junior Trebles contingent from Shrewsbury High Prep School, their cassocks, surpluses and a serious amount of KH picnic fodder. Their destination: St George’s Chapel, Windsor to sing evensong.

All went smoothly and the stop at Oxford services was hardly worth mentioning, although W H Smiths had a good deal on bars of chocolate and they did a brisk trade. The mood of the team was very cheerful and voices seemed to be in good order as they returned to the bus for the last leg of the journey. We arrived at about 3:15pm in the Windsor bus park. It was good to see a number of buses already parked up, some from overseas, no doubt having efficiently  and speedily emptied their passengers in anticipation of gaining a front row seat in the Chapel. The choristers and their ‘minders’ rapidly raced off through the Windsor shopping arcade, barely noticing the Golden Arches or the large lolly shop, such was their concentration on the job in hand. Gathering in front of the entrance to the Castle, the seventy-strong throng of songsters managed to avoid a confrontation with the heavily armed policemen and were allowed in to practice. Such was my confidence in the team, I went off to meet with the Director of Studies at St George’s Choir School, followed by a leisurely amble round the town taking in ice-cream and tea shops. I had to add in a quick visit to Woods of Windsor when I realised I had my wife’s car keys in my pocket and that she had just realised that too!

I had the good fortune to bump into some of the Choir’s many fans on the way to the Chapel. A healthy queue for evensong was forming and a sense of anticipation hung in the air. (I spent an anxious few minutes with the police (see right) but they did eventually allow me in - when it was clear I was with the Fowlers.) The last time I had ventured into the Castle was to see one of my friends singing in the choir after his stag night- his solo was staggering! You will be glad to know that our team were in top condition, although Laurence Jeffcoate admitted to me that he was feeling unwell. Such was his determination not to let the side down, he was prepared to go through the pain barrier for his manager. “I am prepared to go through the pain barrier for my manager,” Laurence told me. Despite Laurence’s commitment, I was slightly concerned that as one of the Choir’s Galacticos (Laurence has recently been informed by Queen’s College, Oxford that he is being considered for a Choral Scholarship), his illness might affect the balance of the Choir. Yet as the Choir walked purposefully into the Chapel, I relaxed when I realised that in the same way Real Madrid have Bale and Ronaldo, Shrewsbury School Chapel Choir has a plethora of singing stars. 

The service began and so did three quarters of an hour of sheer delight. The setting, the sights, the sound – it was simply magnificat! Our Chaplain had not made the trip as he was doing his ‘rounds of the parish,’ but his ‘stand in’ at the Chapel had a voice that helped us forget the absence of the Holy Father. The Choir were quickly into their set pieces. The Canticles by Noble, a beautifully sung psalm and the anthem ‘Thou will keep him in perfect peace’ by Wesley were all delivered crisply and with a precision Wayne Rooney would have been proud of. John Godwin’s delight in playing a ‘fantastic organ’ was evident. His Duruflé had never sounded so good and it was clear that JG was close to heaven. “It was like flying a jumbo jet. You just had to touch the keys and the sound - woh!” Fellow organ enthusiast Dan Lo told me he felt privileged to see a Harrison and Harrison and a Royal Peculiar in the same day!

After the service there was praise and glorification for the Choir from all sides. A couple of music fans from Atlanta Georgia said that they had been blown away by the sound and that we must be very proud of our Choir. Philipp Legner (OS) had come back to see his sister Henrike and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Manager Alex Mason was ecstatic. “It was a great experience and an example of great teamwork. What an Ensemble! Standing on Jane Seymour’s grave gave me an Historical Head rush!” One or two other Choir members had also noted who they were standing on! Henry VIII, Charles 1st and Queen Anne’s infant son, to name but a few! “It was well wicked,” remarked Connie Osborne. John Moore was delighted and declared it the “best ever”. The St George’s Windsor Choirmaster James Vivian was heard to exclaim, “What a sound!”

It was then back on the buses after a quick word with the adoring fans. Another smooth trip home, some watching Toy Story 3 and a brief stop for a visit to Burger King – well they deserved it! Actually they probably deserved better!

All in all, what a trip and what a team. Hats off to the Choir!

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