On Saturday 16th June, the RSCM held a Choral Festival in the wonderful setting of Tintern Abbey. Now the weather could have been kinder to the one hundred or more choristers who attended the service, but we were fortunate to be able to rehearse in the morning under cover in the south cloister. The weather picked up during the afternoon and, although we had a short shower at the start of the service, we were able to sing the service in the dry and with the sun creeping through the wonderful window spaces of the Abbey. The Deputy Director of the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music), Rosemary Field was our Director for the day and the Lord Bishop of Monmouth preached and presented ribbons and certificates to choristers who had completed Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. St John’s was the best represented choir present for the Festival and thirty of us made the pleasant journey to Tintern with our eyes fixed firmly on the sky and the misty cloud cover! However, everyone was in good spirits (Oh yes you were!!) and the general consensus afterwards was that everyone enjoyed the experience, even if we were cold at times, and wet at times! The service was lovely; Rosemary brought together a large, disparate group of singers and made them into a very creditable and good-sounding choir for the service. The service of Evensong, based on Jesus as our King, included readings and a wide variety of music, ranging from hymns, to simple anthems through to quite taxing music, particularly Ireland’s Te Deum. I was amazed that the choristers achieved so much in such a short time and to sing two of the anthems unaccompanied in the open air Abbey was wonderful. St John’s choristers had been rehearsing for a few weeks and were confident in all the pieces we sung with the exception of the Te Deum; but the girls and the adults gave it their very best effort and the end result was quite remarkable in my view! What was lovely to see, were the families and their friends who came to support us at the service. Choristers were delighted with and grateful for this support, particularly when the weather was not too promising. From comments received after the service, the visitors enjoyed listening and singing the well known hymns whilst the girls and adults all told me that they had enjoyed the experience. I have to confess it was difficult at times to keep smiling in the cold and rain, but I sincerely hope that everyone who attended believed it was a worthwhile occasion. The organist, who was superb, was Phillip Aspen from Llandaff Cathedral School, and it was magical to hear the splendid electronic organ reverberating through the ancient walls of the magnificent Abbey. There had not been a Choral Festival in Tintern Abbey since at least 1976 so well done to Dr Emma Gibbins, Newport Cathedral, for reviving it and Bishop Richard told us that we would probably be back in the Abbey for a service to celebrate the centenary of the Diocese of Monmouth in 2021. Keep this in mind!!!

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