Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday

Howdy! I finally found a computer in Durham - internet cafes don't exist up here yet. It's rather charming that the city retains so much of its medieval character but one does wish for few modern conveniences!

Durham is quite beautiful - the Cathedral is one of the most beautiful I've seen - completely Norman architecture until the end of the Choir where a new gothic sanctuary and chapel were added to the east end. The organ is an absolute dream to play - Father Willis (1877) then rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1907, 1930 and 1970. Everything one chooses to use is beautiful, blends so perfectly, and supports the choir v. elegantly. The choir is singing v. well and we're all v. happy to be here. We're staying in St. Chad's College across from the east end - my view is the great rose window!

Nine of us had a terrific private tour on Wednesday - one of the guides took us up the north tower, across a tiny ledge in front of the west window with a spectacular view down the Nave, peeks into the Triforium, into and out onto the south tower for glorious views over the Durham valley, across the ceiling and out into the great lantern tower to walk around the narrow ledge to the other side, back across the ceiling of the choir to go out on the roof, back in and down to the triforium again past the back of the organ and out onto a tinier ledge to stand in front of the rose window! an amazing and vertigo-inducing trip. I stuck v. close to the wall.

Edinburgh was a complete joy - and for the record it's the second most beautiful city I've ever seen! Of course, Paris is the most beautiful - but Edinburgh has an incredibly dramatic setting between the Salisbury Crags and the Firth of Forth. The Old Town is still medieval in character while the new town is an elegant and beautiful creation of the 18th Century. One gorgeous street flowing into an elegant Adam square, flowing into a beautiful crescent. I must have walked 10 miles every day. Uphill and down - a great workout!

We arrived in Durham and immediately got busy on the music - what a wonderful place to create music - the acoustic is very clean and one hears very well. The Choir is responding very well in the room and each day the Choir's sound blooms more.

Yesterday, Thursday, we went to Lindisfarne - Holy Island - a very stark, mystical place on an island just off the coast which can only be reached at low tide. The main purpose of the visit for the Choir was the ruined Priory where St. Cuthbert lived. Of course, for me, the whole point was Lindisfarne Castle, an Edwin Lutyens rebuilding of a Tudor fort. Very romantic and stark, minimal and elegant, evocative and, of course, I want to live there. We then set off to Alnwick Castle - gloriously medieval on the outside and, altho the pictures are grand and there's a good collection of Sevres and Meissen, hideously 19th Century on the inside. One walks around and grieves for the Adam interiors....... ah well, we can only be grateful that the 4th Duke left his other house alone. The new Duchess is a real mover and has created an incredible new garden with the most amazing collection roses, 18,000 varieties of flowers, bamboo mazes, and a real challenge to Versailles for fountains. Lots of fun. I think she's the new version of the Duchess of Devonshire.

We sing again today and start the intense round of weekend services - a lot of music to sing. Monday starts my driving around Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire and Greater Manchester. Let's all hope there's an automatic car at the Hertz - otherwise you'll be seeing the disaster on CNN.

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