The Backs, King's

I make Cambridge my home for the next three weeks. Sarah MacDonald has very graciously set me up here in Selwyn College where I hope to settle down and get some work done – though there are plenty of distractions! I wasted no time in scoping out the college choirs and attended Evensong at King’s at 5:30 and then scooted over to St. John’s for 6:30. The atmosphere at King’s is magical – candlelight and a very large congregation, and though it was “only” the men singing tonight, it was ravishingly beautiful. I was reassured by the pace of their plain chant psalms which were sung so gracefully and with “understanding.” I felt much more at ease than with the double-time chanting I heard in London. At St. John’s I was surprised that the congregation was so small compared to King’s , but as soon as these men sang in the “dim, religious light” they produced a confident and more blended sound than Kings. If this were a football team they would have won the match 2-1 through real musical teamwork, though the plainchant was so luxurious, it was almost too slow. I took a wrong exit leaving the chapel and had to re-trace my steps. As fate would have it, I ran into Andrew Nethsingha and complimented him on his excellent men.

(Philip and Dad – what breed of cow is that in my photo? Charolais?)

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5 Responses to Cambridge

  1. Emily says:

    Heh Steph, Since I’m not joining you in England — although the more I read your blogs, the more I wish that idea could have become reality — I’m pretending. I’m up north and have enjoyed listening to BBC 3 all day, whenever I’ve not been outside on this lovely fall day. They’ve played lots of choral and vocal music and it has indeed been wonderful. It is so great that you can indulge your passion! E

  2. abner says:

    At first site Philip and I both agreed they are Charolais; however, on closer inspection we were thrown off with the dark muzzle and seemingly black ears. They might be an ancient native British breed known as the White Park. There are records of cattle of this type in pre-Christian Ireland and it is highly probable that they were the sacrificial animals of the Druids. This breed is now under the protection of the Rare Breeds Trust. I suspect, however, that they are some sort of mongrel with a few Charolais genes thrown in. Yet the black muzzle and black ears are a distinctive feature of the White Park. Perhaps Cambridge has some interest in the preservation of rare breeds.

    Philip was well aquainted with Andrew Nethsingha when he was Music Director at Gloucester Cathedral and who was in charge of the Three Choirs Festival when we were there in 2007.

    • I asked the rather tough looking older porter who stands guard at the gate in the “backs” at King’s if he knew what breed of cattle was grazing in the field behind him. He confirmed that they are Park Whites – or is it WHite Parks? – and that they can trace their lineage back one thousand years. There are lovely cows I must say, and they look particularly nice when viewed from across the river on a sunny day when there are some kids punting : )

  3. Tom says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Steph!

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